Will brewhouse brew beer again?

Tumwater: Microbrewery among possible new uses

October 1, 2010 

TUMWATER - The new owner of the historic brick brewhouse below Tumwater Falls visited the property Thursday, meeting with city officials to learn more about short-term needs and long-term requirements to renovate the structure.

Owner George Heidgerken was on site Thursday morning. He and his business partner, Patrick Rhodes, bought the brewhouse, 32 acres of property and two parking lots for $1.4 million last month. The sale closed Sept. 10, and crews since have been busy cleaning out a 50,000-square-foot warehouse, putting down gravel to improve a dirt road around the property and removing vegetation clinging to the side of brick structures that were built in 1906.

The property hasn’t been used for brewing beer since about 1915, according to data from the Olympia Tumwater Foundation, a group that operates Tumwater Falls Park and the Schmidt House, named after the family that formed the Olympia Brewing Co.

Also on site Thursday were Chris Carlson, permit manager for Tumwater’s community-development department, John Darnall, building manager for the city, and Steven Morrison, on contract with the city as its historic-preservation planner. Jon Potter, a planner, was there, too, working on behalf of Heidgerken on plans for the site.

A master plan for the property hasn’t been developed yet, but Heidgerken threw out a number of ideas for the property during his meeting with city officials. These include a microbrewery, a boardwalk with waterfront access, a farmers market, a plaza, a conference center or some other multipurpose use, he said. In the near term, Heidgerken wants to secure the property with a fence and weatherize the buildings.

“The face of what is here is what it will look like,” he said, adding that he is a fan of brick and brick buildings. “We will try to live within the means of the character of the structure.”

The city has issued a land-clearing permit to Heidgerken for the initial cleanup work, permit manager Carlson said, but in the long term his redevelopment efforts likely will engage a number of agencies and that he will have to “wind through a complex regulatory maze.”

Some of these agencies could be the state Department of Fish & Wildlife, the state Department of Ecology, the Squaxin Island Tribe, the state Historic Preservation Office and the Army Corps of Engineers, Carlson said. The brewhouse and its historic tower sit alongside the Deschutes River and wetlands.

Heidgerken has dealt with some of these agencies before and not always successfully, according to public information and The Olympian.

In 1992, the state Department of Ecology fined Heidgerken for failing to dispose of 260 drums of hazardous waste at an equipment yard in Shelton, according to The Olympian. He also was once fined $10,000 by the state Department of Natural Resources for failure to comply with a Forest Practices Act reforestation order in Grays Harbor County, according to public records.

Heidgerken told Carlson Thursday that he is looking for cooperation from the city and that if his project is going to take five to 10 years to get approved, he might just maintain the property as a warehouse or sell it, he said. Carlson said the city is prepared to work with him, too, although he urged him to communicate regularly with the city about his plans.

“You need to tell us what to do,” he said. “The key here is communication.”

Up next for Heidgerken is another meeting with the Olympia Tumwater Foundation, executive director Jackie Tobosa said Thursday. Foundation officials plan to meet him on site today, she said. Tobosa said she’s aware that Heidgerken doesn’t have a plan yet for the property, but she’s still excited that “at least something is happening.”

“I’m sure it will be positive for the City of Tumwater and I’m certainly looking forward to positive things,” she said.

The Olympia Brewing Co. and the Schmidt family brewed beer at the brewhouse from 1906 until prohibition arrived in Washington state about 1916. During World War I, the family tried unsuccessfully to produce apple juice and loganberry juice, then exited the beer business to focus on hotels and trucking, according to Olympia Tumwater Foundation data. The brewhouse buildings were operated by a pulp and paper mill business in the 1920s, then were unused in the 1930s. The current brewery along Capitol Boulevard was built in 1933, while the old brewhouse was owned by a series of manufacturers — first a company manufacturing parts for Boeing and later a company that made kitchen cabinets. In the early 1960s, the old brewhouse stood silent again and then was bought back by the Olympia Brewery in 1965. The brewhouse later was used for storage by a succession of brewery owners.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 rboone@theolympian.com www.theolympian.com/bizblog

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