Rainier beer
Rainier Brewing Company (1884 – 1999) was a Seattle, Washington, company that brewed Rainier Beer, a popular brand in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Although Rainier was founded in 1884, the Seattle site had been brewing beer since 1878. While the beer enjoys near iconic status, it is no longer brewed in Seattle, nor is the company owned locally. In the late 1990s, the company was sold to Stroh's, then to Pabst, though Miller contract brews most of Pabst's beers. The brewery was closed by Pabst in 1999 and sold.

Rainier Beer and the brewery date back to 1884, when Edward Sweeney established the Claussen-Sweeney Brewing Company in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle. In 1893, Sweeney's company merged with two other breweries; the new company became known as the Seattle Brewing and Malting Company. Originally, all three of the breweries were operated by this company, but it was the Claussen-Sweeney brewery which would remain in operation until 1999 and become a Seattle landmark.

Alcoholic beverages were outlawed in Washington state in 1916[1] and the Rainier brand was sold to a San Francisco, California company. Four years later, alcoholic beverages were outlawed nationwide. Following the repeal of prohibition, the brewery was purchased by Lethbridge, Alberta brewers Fritz and Emil Sick, who then repurchased the Rainier brand and began brewing Rainier in 1935. The brewery went through several names, such as Sick's Seattle Brewing and Malting and Sicks Rainier Brewing Company, during the 1935–1977 period.

Sick's also brewed Rainier at a branch brewery in Spokane. The Spokane brewery closed in 1962.

From 1952 to 1964, Rainier came packaged in a series of decorative beer cans known as the Rainier Jubilee Series. First in the series were a set of Christmas cans marketed in late 1952 and again in late 1953; these cans are rare and highly collectible today. The Christmas cans proved such a success that Rainier's use of decorative Jubilee Series cans continued for over a decade, with literally thousands of different designs. Most of these are not as rare and collectible as the Christmas cans, but the "reindeer" cans (which were sold only in Alaska), and the first pull tab Jubilee cans (made only in the last couple of years of the Jubilee Series) are also considered rare.

Other brands of beer brewed by Sick's Rainier Brewing during this time included Rheinlander and Sick's Select. Later, the Rainier brewery would also take over brewing Heidelberg beer after its brewery in Tacoma, Washington, closed. Each of these brands (as well as rival Northwest brands Lucky Lager, Olympia, and Blitz-Weinhard) were once staples in the Pacific Northwest beer market, but starting in the 1960s and 1970s began losing market share to the major national brands.

After Rainier Brewing Company resumed producing "Rainier Beer" after the end of Prohibition and its advertisements became ubiquitous in the Seattle-Tacoma area, a rumor began circulating that the brewery's owner, Emil Sick, had bribed a Washington state committee with free beer to name the local mountain "Rainier". This, however, is an urban legend and can still be heard today among Tacoma residents who preferred the alternate name of "Mount Tahoma".[2] Sick did, however, purchase the local baseball team and named them the Seattle Rainiers for this purpose.[3]

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Olympia is often associated with the Olympia Brewing Company, which from 1896-2003 brewed Olympia Beer, even though the brewery was actually located in Tumwater. The Olympia Brewing Company began producing beer in 1896 at a site along the Deschutes River and continued until Prohibition. After Prohibition ended, a new brewery was erected just upstream from the original site. This brewery was eventually purchased by SABMiller and closed on July 1, 2003.


There was much rivalry between the Olympia Brewery and Rainier beer for the thirsty customers of Seattle.

During the 1970s, Rainier ran a number of memorable television ads in the Pacific Northwest, largely conceived by Seattle designer Terry Heckler,[4] assisted by several of his staff, especially Ed Leimbacher, writer/producer for Rainier print, radio and TV for a dozen years. Some of these noted by Seattle Magazine included the Running of the Wild Rainiers (a parody of Running of the Bulls featuring bottles with legs), frogs that croaked "Rainier Beer" (a motif appropriated many years later by Budweiser), Mickey Rooney in a Mountie costume alongside his wife Jan as they sang a parody of Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald's "Indian Love Call" (most airings of this commercial ended with Rooney pouring a bottle of Rainier into her proffered glass as he gazed into her eyes, but occasionally a version was aired in which he poured the beer into her prominent cleavage), and a motorcycle that revved "raiiiiiiiii-nieeeeeeeer-beeeeeeeer" while zooming by along a mountain road. Other ads featured a Lawrence Welk double leading his band in "The Wunnerful Rainier Waltz" complete with bubble machine and soloists blowing on beer bottles, and a performance of a parody of the song "You're the Tops" while thousands of Rainier bottle caps fell like dominoes in a giant "R" frame (the whole commercial was reportedly shot on the first take, a great relief since it took all day to set up). Rainier also produced humorous posters such as a "National Beergraphic" parody of a National Geographic Magazine cover depicting tourists encountering a Wild Rainier in the forest, and a Flash Gordon/Star Wars poster, "Fresh Wars" that recalled the bar scene in Episode 4. There were even costumed Wild Rainiers that made promotional appearances at Supermarkets during this period.

In 1977 the brewery was sold to G. Heileman Brewing Company, and passed through several more hands before finally winding up owned by Pabst, which closed it in 1999. The Rainier brand was sold to General Brewing Company, which moved production to the Olympia brewery in nearby Tumwater, Washington. The Olympia Brewing Company closed in 2003. Rainier Beer is now brewed under contract in California.

The Olympia Brewing Company began brewing Olympia Beer at the Olympia Brewery in 1896 at the Tumwater Falls of the Deschutes River and continued until Prohibition. It was founded by Leopold Schmidt, a German immigrant living in Montana. After Prohibition ended, a new brewery was erected just upstream from the original.

Olympia Beer was a very popular regional Pacific Northwest brand which eventually expanded nationwide, positioned as a low-price beer. During the 1970s, Olympia acquired Hamm's and Lone Star. Olympia Brewing also produced Buckhorn Beer,[1] which had previously been a product of the Lone Star Brewing Company.[2] The Schmidt family, which owned and operated the brewery and company, elected to sell to Heilemann's Old Style Beer Company in 1982. Heilemann's was subsequently purchased by Pabst in 1983.

As with many other regional breweries, ownership of this brewery eventually passed through several corporations including Pabst, G. Heileman, and Stroh's, until the brewery was eventually purchased by SABMiller. For a time, the Olympia brewery took over the brewing of other Pacific Northwest brands as their original breweries were closed one by one, including the Lucky Lager brewery in Vancouver, Washington, the Henry Weinhard's brewery in Portland, Oregon, and the Rainier Beer brewery in Seattle, Washington. Miller closed the Olympia brewery on July 1, 2003 citing the unprofitability of such a small brewery.

Olympia is situated at the extreme southern tip of Puget Sound on Budd Inlet. The site of Olympia was home to Lushootseed-speaking peoples for thousands of years. The abundant shellfish in the tideflats and the many salmon-spawning streams entering Puget Sound at this point made it a productive food-gathering area. Many tribes shared access to these resources, including Squaxin, Nisqually, Puyallup, Chehalis, Suquamish, and Duwamish. According to early settlers' accounts, natives called the present site of Olympia "Cheet Woot" or "Schictwoot", meaning "place of the bear."
The first recorded visit by europeans was in 1792 when Peter Puget and a crew from the British Vancouver Expedition charted the site. In 1833, the Hudson's Bay Company established Fort Nisqually, a trading post at Sequalitchew Creek near present day DuPont, Washington. As the fur trade declined, the HBC diversified, forming a subsidiary called Pugets Sound Agricultural Company and converted former trade posts including Fort Nisqually into working farms. The U.S. Exploring Expedition under Lt. Charles Wilkes explored the Puget Sound region in 1841. They camped near Fort Nisqually while they charted the area and named Budd Inlet after expedition member Thomas A. Budd.

At the request of the Hudson's Bay Company, French Catholic missionaries established Mission St. Joseph of Newmarket and school in the 1840s at Priest Point near the future townsite for the conversion of natives to Catholicism.

Olympia, with the Capitol Lake, Percival Landing, and Olympic Mountains in the distance.

American settlers also came to the area in the 1840s, drawn by the water-power potential of Tumwater Falls and established nearby "New Market," now known as Tumwater, the first American settlement on Puget Sound. The site was the northern end of the "Cowlitz Portage," the overland trail between the Cowlitz River and Puget Sound. In a time when water travel was the easiest form of transportation, Olympia's location on the north end of the main route through the area made it a crossroads for regional trade.

Edmund Sylvester and Levi Smith jointly claimed the land that now comprises downtown Olympia. Smith built his cabin on what was then a narrow peninsula, near the current intersection of Capitol Way and Olympia Avenue. Smith's untimely death in 1848 left Sylvester the sole owner of the land on which he platted the future townsite. Early names for the settlement included "Smithfield" and "Smithter" in honor of Levi Smith. In 1853 the town settled on the name Olympia, at the suggestion of local resident Isaac N. Ebey, due to its view of the Olympic Mountains to the northwest.

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