Former Olympia brewery property about to be sold

The former Olympia brewery property in Tumwater south of Custer Way, which has sat idle since the brewery closed in 2003, is about to get a new owner and a new future, the commercial real estate broker for the property said Monday.

NW Investment Group LLC is set to close on the remaining brewery property before the end of the year. It totals 800,000 square feet and includes the more modern buildings above Tumwater Falls and east of Capitol Boulevard, said Troy Dana, who has been trying to sell the property for years.

A sale price was not disclosed. The seller of the property is Capital Salvage.

“I’m excited,” said Dana, who also has found himself in the role of caretaker for the property.

“It feels like we have the right guys in the right place in the right time with the right plan,” he said.

The right guys in this case are the partners behind NW Investment Group LLC: Ken Brogan and Douglas Gray.

Neither could be reached on Monday, but in a news release both touted the next steps in the process.

“We have an ambitious plan and hope to have our Custer Way building completed before the end of 2015,” Brogan said in a statement.

The larger goal, according to the news release, is to turn the former property into a mixed-use destination, including a contract brewery, contract distillery, brew pub, as well as space for retail and restaurant uses.

That plan sounds similar to one proposed for the historic brewhouse below Tumwater Falls.

That property, which is owned by George Heidgerken, currently is undergoing a feasibility study to determine whether it could be used as a craft brewing and distilling center.

Secretary of State data on NW Investment Group show that Brogan has a Tumwater address, while Gray has an address in Santa Ana, California.

“Redevelopment of the brewery site that is consistent with the community’s vision has been a priority for the city of Tumwater,” Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet said. “We look forward to working with any new owners and reviewing proposals that may come forward from the future sale.”

Also interested in the project is Neil Fallon, chief executive of American Brewing Co., a craft beer brewer in Edmonds that currently produces 7,000 to 8,000 barrels a year. The publicly traded business, which is almost 4 years old, has filled out 5,000 square feet for storage, production and a tasting room, but it needs more room, he said.

Relocating to Tumwater and occupying space at the former brewery is a possibility, Fallon said.

“We are definitely considering it,” he said Monday.

Fallon, too, has a larger vision for his business beyond the need for more space in Tumwater. Through future mergers with other craft brewers, he wants to grow American Brewing to the point that it is large enough to handle the shipping, distribution and other business needs of the craft brewers so that they can focus on their products.

Meanwhile, the Miller/Coors decision to drop the deed restriction on the brewery property about a year ago appears to have improved the chances of a sale, Dana said.

The deed restriction previously prevented anyone from producing alcohol on the site after Miller closed the brewery in June 2003.

Dana said he previously pitched the property to investor Gray back in 2010, but Gray told Dana to call him “when you can make beer there again.”

“Once we solved that problem, we did call,” Dana said.

Once the sale closes, the next chapter for the brewery could be much brighter than its recent history.

After Miller closed the brewery in 2003, sending hundreds to unemployment lines, little has happened. And what has happened didn’t turn out well, including a failed effort to bottle water on the site.

Dana estimated that the brewery property was once worth about $300 million. That’s not the case today.

“Today it is worth whatever a ready and able buyer is willing to pay,” he said.

In other brewery news on Monday:

Heidi Behrends Cerniwey, formerly Tumwater’s communications and marketing specialist, was recently named assistant city administrator. In her new role, she also will be in charge of brewery project management, a position previously held by Michael Matthias.

Matthias, who was working on a contract with the Thurston Economic Development Council that was partially funded by the city, left in August to take a new job with the city of Des Moines. The contract officially ends in December, so Matthias is available for consultation about the brewery.