Sketched Oct. 8, 2019
One street: Airport Way South. Two historical brewery sites located 2 miles apart: The “old” Rainier Brewery in Sodo and the “original” Rainier Brewery in Georgetown. The difference between these two locations has puzzled me for some time, but I feel a bit less clueless after a recent sketching excursion.
The Georgetown site is where Seattle’s legendary beer brand was launched by the Seattle Brewing and Malting Company in the 1890s. It has been likened to a cathedral for its size and beauty, and it grew to be the largest industrial operation in the state before Prohibition forced its closure in 1916. Looking at the beautiful row of brick buildings today, I could imagine the horse-drawn carriages rushing to deliver cases of Rainier to thirsty tavern patrons. Among the businesses that occupy the space now, I recognized Fran’s Chocolates and Machine House Brewery (a brewery inside an old brewery, how cool is that?).
The colorful hodgepodge of buildings in Sodo — you can’t miss the big “R” when you’re driving down I-5 — is where Rainier beer was reborn in the 1930s after Prohibition. The massive complex is now leased to an array of commercial businesses — I saw two barbershops, a wine-tasting room, a spa and a dancing studio — and it also includes work/live lofts.
Lady Rainier, who once stood as a water fountain in the original brewery more than 100 years ago, is now tucked away mostly out of sight by the north entrance of the Sodo complex. She probably misses her former home, especially now that Georgetown’s beer scene is hot again.