Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Nerd out on Washington state beer, wine and coffee

Old Olympia Brewery Brew House, built 1906, part of the Tumwater Historic District, Tumwater, Washington, photo by Joe Mabel

Washington state beer geeks, rejoice! Nerding out on your favorite malted beverage is officially highbrow.

Saturday, Jan. 21, the Washington State History Museum unveils its newest exhibit, Steins, Vines & Grinds, exploring the culture and industry-related stories of three libations that continue to be wildly popular in the Evergreen State — beer, wine and coffee. Museumgoers will drink up the passion of beverage industry leaders connected with the unique climate and geography of our state to place Washington at the forefront of the industry. Drink up is the correct terminology, as several tasting events will accompany the exhibit too.

“The exhibit follows a general timeline through movements in the industries,” explains Erich Ebel, marketing and communications director for the Washington State Historical Society. “Each of the industries begins pre-statehood and follows an arc of early beginnings through major industry with a later emphasis back on the craft movement.”

According to Steins, Vines & Grinds hype, the exhibitdocuments the long history of beer, wine, and coffee in the region, from early Hudson’s Bay Company imports through modern-day innovative processes. Even predating statehood, beer, wine, and coffee quickly became important commodities. All three beverages could be found inside the walls of Forts Vancouver and Nisqually. Whether roasting their own green coffee beans from Hawaii, sipping on homemade wine, or imbibing a bottled India pale ale from London, early Northwest settlers took the first steps in the creation of a cultural phenomenon.”

The “Vine” portion of the exhibit will focus on the immigrants who grew wine grapes on small family farms, a number of urban wineries that source their grapes from multiple vineyards across the state to develop unique blends, as well as a grape press used by Croatian wine makers in Gig Harbor.

“Grinds” includes early coffee roasters who either roasted green coffee beans at home or in the local marketplace to today’s roasters who work directly with coffee growers from around the globe.

Naturally, “Steins” peaks our interest the most.

Washington state beer history has been exclusively found on the walls at Pike Brewing Company’s near Pike Place Market in Seattle. The Washington State History Museum will grab a little of that attention, from the local brewers who made their beer in town and delivered it by horse cart to Ezra Meeker’s Puyallup hop farms to an unopened bottle of Rainier discovered in a sunken ship.

“We even have an original hop box in the exhibit that is from a Kent hop farm,” adds Ebel.

The main ingredients of beer — water, barley, hops and yeast —get their moment in the spotlight in a section that describes the general brewing process, although brewing is not the focus.

“We do have a bottling machine from Capital Brewing that became Olympia Brewing, kegs from all eras, taps, bottles, cans, steins, fanning mill and advertising memorabilia,” says Ebel.

Visitors to Steins, Vines & Grinds will be immersed in the origins of these three beverages in Washington, including coffee and beer mugs and wine bottles and glasses ranging back in time; and a mélange of beverage memorabilia and marketing materials that includes posters, neon signs, beer trays, and even a bobblehead brewmaster.

The exhibit will be open through April 21, and the museum has a number of events scheduled throughout the next several months including “Music to My Beers” March 2 offering adults an evening of Three Magnets Brewing Company craft beers to the sounds of iconic music, with hands-on activities and an exclusive look at two exhibits that showcase Washington’s sonorous and sudsy history.

STEINS, VINES & GRINDS, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, Jan. 21-April 23, Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 1.888.238.4373