Time to say goodbye to some legendary gold cans, at least for the time being. On Monday, January 25, Olympia announced it is temporarily pausing its well-known line of beer, which had been around for more than a century. The beer brand — owned by California-based Pabst Brewing Company — cited a “growing decline in demand” in its official statement about the decision, but noted that its new line of vodka, which bears the Olympia name and famous label, will continue.
Olympia Beer started its operation in Tumwater 125 years ago and built a reputation as one of the more recognizable (and affordable) lagers in the Pacific Northwest. Many became intimately familiar with the iconic logo and gold beer cans, which permeated pop culture and appeared in movies like “The Graduate.” The beer also touted its use of artesian well water in the brewing process as part of its image.
But Olympia has also undergone plenty of changes over the years. While the original Tumwater-based company remained relatively stable (besides a pause during Prohibition) for the majority of the 20th century, it went through a series of mergers and acquisitions with larger brands starting in the 1980s. Eventually, Olympia came under the Pabst umbrella in the 90s. Then, the Tumwater brewing site closed in 2003, and operation moved to larger facilities in Irwindale, California, where it remained up until the present.
In August 2020, Olympia introduced its own line of spirits called Olympia Artesian Vodka, using a Tumwater distillery. The offering came around the same time that another well-known PNW-associate beer brand, Rainier, released a line of gin, and Pabst released a line of whiskey. Now, it seems, the hard liquor effort for Olympia will go forward, even as the future remains uncertain for the beer.
It may not be fully the end of the line, though. In Monday’s announcement, Olympia/Pabst claimed it had been trying for years to return the beer operation back to Washington and that it remains “committed to finding the best solution to keep brewing Olympia Beer in the future.”