O lympia is a brew town, and the South Sound Makers group is active in keeping the legacy alive. South Sound Makers aims to spread the word that the Olympia, Tumwater and Lacey brewery scene is on the map as a craft brew destination. The group supports its members with advice, education and doing whatever is needed to help each other be successful.
Members are brewers, tap room managers and brewery owners of the craft brew production facilities behind the South Sound Made label on their cans. Entirely volunteer based, the group meets frequently to share ideas and to present industry-related education. Coming from all different backgrounds but sharing a passion for craft brewing, each brings a unique set of talents to the discussion.
“Everybody is synergistic about getting together,” CEO of Top Rung Brewing Company Casey Sobol says. “We also do stuff differently. Yet, I think that is what makes the group stronger. We each have our talents and areas of interest. It’s created a neat atmosphere in the South Sound for the consumer and the community. You can go to all the different places, and they each have their different vibe. It’s representative of the community we are in.”
Meetings rotate, allowing different hosts to plan educational features and invite guest presenters, like a visiting accountant, familiar with the restaurant, beverage and brewery industry. Other speakers may talk about hops or water profiles. If a member is knowledgeable in one aspect of business or has a passion for a topic in the brewing realm, the floor is open. Design topics, business practices, trouble shooting equipment issues or sharing experiences navigating the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board requirements are all valuable information pieces that help business owners, brewers and managers be successful. Working environment is vital too. For example, Head Brewer at Headless Mumby Brewing Company Stacey O’Connor hosted a meeting discussion about how diversity and equity inclusion can be represented in a tap room.
Sometimes support comes in unforeseen forms. A quick message or phone call between members often solves an issue. Fond memories abound in stories of helping hands, such as the time Top Rung brought grain to Headless Mumby who had run out. Early days of operation have been a time to boost the other members too. O’Connor made a visit to the Well 80 Brewhouse then their tanks were installed, and likewise others extended support to Headless Mumby when they were just starting out.
Additional evidence of local appreciation also shows in members’ tap room menu listings. “We always have at least a couple of taps dedicated to local breweries,” shares Chris Knudson, Well 80 Brewhouse owner. “One, it’s payback for all of the help we got in the beginning. We want to continue to say thanks to all of the people that helped us out when we were just starting. And two, I just love the idea of ‘local’ and being able to share that experience with everybody and not be exclusively our stuff.” Genuine efforts such as this help support member business ventures and thereby support the local craft brewing industry overall.
“We are all really proud of being in Olympia,” O’Connor says. “Olympia is a beer town. The city was built on beer essentially. I think it’s important for that representation to continue. We would like to hold a standard for what it means to be in the beverage industry in our area so that we have a great representation. I think that will bring more breweries and more cideries. We want to be part of that so we can build more businesses in the area, but also attract more consumers as well because they will know we have a great reputation as a whole and not just as individual breweries.”
South Sound Makers also carefully collaborates to host events during the same time period to allow the public to enjoy each venue. The group organized their South Sound Beer and Cider week, and each member’s location held an activity. Well 80’s anniversary party was that week, and they hosted a brewer’s karaoke contest. Three Magnets Brewery made a pepper beer, had other members make their own version and then featured those brews at their block party.
The hope is to get the group back together more often during 2022, have a rebuilding year and do more in 2023 with regular meetings and official events. Olympia has a lot to offer as a craft brew destination. With historical roots in brewing, numerous small breweries, cideries and distilleries, the selection is large. Visitors can enjoy traveling to different tap rooms, strolling Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls and seeing the Schmidt House.
South Sound Makers is actively cultivating Olympia’s brewing roots together. They don’t see themselves as isolated entities. They know each other, and they know what is going on with each other. While maintaining their individual qualities, they make up a diverse group, representative of the South Sound. Each brewery makes and serves good beer, and their awards and heartwarming stories of collaboration and support tell it true.