Northwest Military Blogs: Served blog

August 18, 2014 at 8:16am

Tumwater Artesian Brewfest pays tribute to city's gaming history

Beer Pong is Tumwater. Courtesy photo

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Entertainment has always been a keystone of Tumwater's identity. Even in the mid-1800s, when it was little more than a dusty pioneer town, Tumwater was a lively place, with no shortage of games.

Michael T. Simmons, who along with other pioneers who founded what would become Tumwater, invented beer pong. After working all day at the grist and saw mills, Simmons and the gents would ride their horses to downtown New Market, their settlement centered on the Deschutes River and Tumwater Falls, and set up a beer pong game in the middle of the street. They'd toss pebbles into tin cans full of beer, shouting "It's the water!" when the pebble found the bottom of the can, although research doesn't reveal why such a phrase was shouted.

In the 1850s, right around the time New Market became Tumwater, a nod to the glorious Tumwater Falls, the lumberjacks would gather on Sunday afternoons, pour beer into their dented tin cans and create challenges out of wood scraps. Stuffing the most wood into trousers soon gave way to deconstructing towers of wood pieces piece by piece until it collapsed, sending the culprit to the outhouse they all lovingly called the "Time Out." Reigning champion Jed Jenga dubbed the game "Stack 'Em Up, Knock 'Em Down."

Nov. 25, 1869, Tumwater was officially incorporated as a town. In celebration, the town folk tossed their "New Market" embroidered fanny packs in the trash tins. In keeping with the rich community tradition of games, those who could hit the tiny hole from faraway distances would win pretzel necklaces. At the end of the year, the champion would receive a big floppy hat and oversized sunglasses.

In the summer of 1895, Montana brewer Leopold F. Schmidt discovered Tumwater's artisan springs, shelled out $4,550 for property and within a year built five buildings by the Deschutes River comprising the Capital Brewery - a four-story wooden brewhouse, five-story cellar building, one-story ice factory, bottling/keg plant and, of course, a game hut. History hasn't been kind to the game hut; only verbal history has kept its existence alive. 

The Capital Brewing Company became the Olympia Brewing Co. in 1902, marketing its artisan water excellence with the slogan "It's the Water" for their flagship brand, Olympia Beer.

Prohibition messed with Oly Brewing's good life, the game hut fell victim to the emerging social gaming leader Milton Bradley and the property exchanged hands several times, as well as other historical tidbits of note.

I relay the Tumwater history lesson to prove Saturday's Tumwater Artesian Brewfest isn't a celebration of the city's rich beer history, but rather a re-boot of the city's gaming roots. Yes, 30 Pacific Northwest breweries will line the Tumwater Valley Golf Course's driving range, but the spotlights will shine on the events consuming most of the green grass - games. The beer festival folks present Beer Stein Holding Contest (men and women divisions), First Tee's Hole in One Contest, supersized beer pong, cornhole, volleyball, giant Jenga as well as a ride on a Mechanical Shark. I'm not prepared to make waves with Tumwater's notorious mechanical shark history. I have mouths to feed.

"Supersized Beer Pong is not an organized activity, it is just open to whoever is wanting to play," explains Jennifer Leach, special projects and event manager with the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau, as well as the producer of the Tumwater Artesian Brewfest. "The game is played with twelve red garbage cans and two volleyballs, following regular beer pong rules - however, it is difficult to remove the cups so they pretty much stay put."

No doubt Michael T. Simmons smiles from above.

"Beer Stein Holding Contest contestants line up and must hold a one-liter stein, filled with Olympia Beer, straight out in front of them," explains Leach. "There is no supporting of the arm allowed, and no bending or leaning of the body. The last one holding their stein wins."

Obviously, this game is borrowed from Germany. I have submitted a FOIA request.

"The hole-in-one contest is 168 yards long; prize still to be determined," says Leach. "There will be footballs, Frisbees and other balls available for play; however, there is no organized game. There will also be volleyball nets and cornhole games set up - everything is very casual, much like a backyard barbecue."

The Mechanical Shark wasn't discussed. Not shocking.

The Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau's hope was to create an environment where there is plenty to do besides tasting beer, wine and cider, especially for those people who are the designated drivers for the group or simply don't (gasp) enjoy beer.

"The reason we have so many activities is that we wanted to be unique from other beer festivals or brew fests, providing things to do besides standing or sitting and tasting beer," explains Leach. We wanted to create a fun environment to appeal to the 21 to 35 crowd. However, people of all (drinking) ages will certainly have a great time at the event, especially with such a wide range of activities.

Leach disputes gaming lead to the creation of the Tumwater Artesian Brewfest, which was renamed from the last year's Tumwater Oktoberfest.

"The idea of Tumwater Artesian Brewfest originated with the desire to celebrate Tumwater's brewing history, as the former home of Olympia Beer," says Leach. "That is why in addition to all the microbrews available, we will have Olympia Beer on tap, to honor the former Olympia Brewing Company's impact on the Tumwater community."

The Visitor Bureau's goal was to host Pacific Northwest breweries, so Leach and the committee hand-selected breweries from Washington and Oregon. South Sound breweries pitching booths on the driving range include 7 Seas Brewing, Dick's Brewing Co., Fish Brewing Company, Harmon Brewing Co., Kastellan Brauerei, Narrows Brewing Co., Three Magnets Brewing Co., Top Rung Brewing Co. and Wingman Brewers. Olympia Beer will make its way north from Los Angeles, thanks to the Pabst Brewing Co. Oregon breweries including 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Base Camp Brewing Co., Full Sail Brewing Co., GoodLife Brewing and Pelican Brewing Co.

Tickets are $20, $15 military and $10 designated driver before Aug. 22, increasing by $5 each at the gate. Five taste tokens and a 6-ounce plastic glass will be your award, with an additional buck for each additional tasting. There will also be 12-ounce souvenir glasses for sale. Tickets are available at, or at the Bureau, 103 Sid Snyder Ave. SW in Olympia.

So Saturday, as you hurl an enormous ball into enormous cups, you and Tumwater founder Michael T. Simmons will be united on this earth, caught in the dance of pioneer vision and jovial drinking games. "It's the water!"

TUMWATER ARTESIAN BREWFEST, 1-8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, Tumwater Valley Golf Course, 4611 Tumwater Valley Dr. SE, Tumwater, $10-$25,

Tumwater Artesian Brewfest breweries (as of Aug. 18)

  • 7 Seas Brewing Co. • Gig Harbor, WA
  • 10 Barrel Brewing Company •  Bend, OR
  • Bainbridge Island Brewing • Bainbridge Island, WA
  • Base Camp Brewing Company • Portland, OR
  • Brickyard Brewing • Woodinville, WA
  • Dick's Brewing Company • Centralia, WA
  • Fish Brewing Company • Olympia, WA
  • Fremont Brewing Company • Seattle, WA
  • Full Sail Brewing Company • Hood River, OR
  • GoodLife Brewing • Bend, OR
  • Hales Brewery • Ballard, WA
  • Harmon Brewery • Tacoma, WA
  • Iron Horse Brewery • Ellensburg, WA
  • Kastellan Brauerei • Lacey, WA
  • Madsen Family Cellars • Lacey, WA
  • Narrows Brewing • Tacoma, WA
  • NoLi Brewhouse • Spokane, WA
  • Northwest Mountain Winery • Lacey, WA
  • Olympia Beer • Los Angeles, CA
  • Orlison Brewing Co. • Airway Heights, WA
  • Pelican Brewing Co. • Pacific Beach, OR
  • Port Townsend Brewing Company • Port Townsend, WA
  • Scatter Creek Winery • Tenino, WA
  • Seapine Brewing Company • Seattle, WA
  • Stottle Winery • Lacey, WA
  • Three Magnets Brewing Company • Olympia, WA
  • Top Rung Brewing Company • Lacey, WA
  • Westport Brewing Co. • Westport, WA
  • Whitewood Cider Co. • Olympia, WA
  • Wingman Brewers • Tacoma, WA
Filed under: New Beer Column Olympia
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Served, a blog by the Weekly Volcano, is the region’s feedbag of fresh chow daily, local restaurant news, New Beer Column, bar and restaurant openings and closings, breaking culinary news and breaking culinary ground - all brought to the table with a dollop of Internet frivolity on top.

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