There was a time not all that long ago that Olympia was considered more of an I-5 afterthought between Portland and Seattle than a place worth spending any quality time. If you haven’t been lately, that’s changed. The shift toward destination status is reflected in a number of artisanal and craft pursuits, not the least of which would be the beer. The Olympia Brewing Co. may be gone, but here’s a rundown of some establishments that have picked up the brewing baton in Washington State’s capital, and are running with it.
Three Magnets Brewing Co.
Three Magnets has earned a stellar reputation for its creative brews that range from traditional Northwest-style thirst-quenchers through farmhouse ales and up into high-octane sippers. Don’t sleep on the outstanding 1st Anniversary Strong Ale, a blend of port and bourbon barrel-aged strong ales. In addition to the eclectic selection on tap, Three Magnets provides a number of to-go options in the beer cooler. And the onsite restaurant, that splits the food duties between the family-friendly and 21-and-over sections of the pub, now also offers a rib-sticking weekend brunch.
Fish Tale Brewpub
The OG of Olympia’s craft beer scene. Opened in 1993, Fish Tale is the oldest brewpub in the capital city, as well as home to some world-renowned organic ales. Look no further than the Beyond the Pale Ale, which earned Fish the “World’s Best Beer” prize at the 2015 World Beer Awards. The beer and food were originally housed all under one roof, but when the brewing moved offsite the pub menu expanded. And so did the drink options. The Fish Tale Brewpub now sports 24 taps of beer and cider that showcases brews from around the Northwest.
Well 80 Brewhouse
Well 80 is a new brewery and brewpub built on the site of one of the town’s famous Artesian Well, utilizing the same pristine water that prompted Leopold Schmidt to open Olympia Brewing all those years ago. Does it make a difference? Assess for yourself, starting with the Garrett Saison. What’s not up for debate is Well 80’s already stalwart status as an elite family-friendly brewpub — with a board game/book area and a kids’ menu to accompany the stellar grown person dining options. Which includes a solid lineup of hand-tossed pizzas and an extremely well-executed ode to a classic American drive-in burger.
Headless Mumby Brewing Co.
The combined effort of two friends that once had their own respective home breweries — “Headless” and “Mumby” — the Headless Mumby Brewing Co. focuses on balance and drinkability, primarily in the form of lagers. A refreshing change of pace in a Northwest landscape historically dominated by palate-searing IPAs. Demonstrating the collaborative spirit of the craft beer culture, Headless Mumby utilizes outgrown equipment from a number of other local breweries to deliver some of the easiest drinking beer in town, at the first neighborhood brewpub on the east side of Olympia. The Cask and You Shall Receive series releases a new cask-conditioned beer every Friday evening.
Spar Café Brewery
An anchor of the community for the better part of a century, the Spar Café opened in downtown Olympia in 1935 as a trusted blue collar watering hole and eatery for dockworkers and loggers. Ownership was taken on by the Portland-based McMenamins group in 2006 and keeps the original Olympia pub tradition alive by brewing beer from the 3,300-year-old Artesian Well. The smallest brewhouse of the entire hotel-restaurant chain with just three barrels in sporadic production, guests can savor small-batch beers brewed onsite like the Spartesian pale ale as well as McMenamins favorites like Terminator stout and the Ruby raspberry ale.