During the pandemic, yet another beloved beer brand with local roots is switching to the hard stuff. This week, Rainier Beer — which started in Seattle in the late-1800s, but is now owned by California-based Pabst Brewing Company — introduced a line of gin. The offering, called Mountain Fresh Gin, will be the first time Rainier has made anything besides beer since Prohibition, when it briefly concocted a Lime Rickey soda mixer, according to the blog BrewPublic. And it follows in the footsteps of fellow PNW-born beermaker Olympia introducing a vodka line.
Though Rainier Beer is no longer headquartered or brewed in Seattle, the gin will be made at Capitol Hill’s OOLA distillery, and the company advertises that it’s infused with huckleberry, juniper, and spruce flavors. The liquor is already available in stores around Washington, and can be ordered through Drizly. It’s coming soon to Oregon as well.
The arrival of Mountain Fresh Gin may not surprise those who have been following beer developments of late. In late August, Olympia Beer announced its own line of spirits called Olympia Artesian Vodka. Like Rainier, Olympia is owned by the Pabst Beer Company, but the vodka distillery is in Tumwater, and says it uses the same artesian well water that once made Olympia famous. And, last year, Pabst Blue Ribbon released a line of whiskey, so the company clearly seems to be trying to expand its reach beyond beer drinkers.
Rainier is known not just for its beer, but for its iconic logo, which still sits atop the old brewery off I-5. The new gin takes full advantage of that, with the “R” appearing alongside what looks like a sprig of juniper and berries on the side of the bottle.
Likewise, Olympia vodka displays its own iconic logo from its gold beer cans, which permeated pop culture and appeared in movies like “The Graduate.” Washington Beer Blog recently tried the artesian vodka and reported that it had an “agreeable herbal quality.”
Meanwhile, BrewPublic sampled Rainier’s gin and claimed it was a “pleasant sipper” and would make for a good mixer with gin and tonics or martinis.