Along Jefferson Street in downtown Olympia, Fish Brewing Company and the adjacent Fish Tail Brewpub are landmarks of local culture, commerce and beer. The mural etched on the brewery’s exterior not only reflects a school of fish weaving its way through a field of grain, but represents a rich history of local beers, ciders and ales brewed in Olympia’s downtown. As a new year begins, so does a new chapter for Fish Brewing as new owners Josh Carrigan and Kate Craig continue the brewery’s legacy.
In the summer of 2019, before Carrigan and Craig took ownership of Fish Brewing, the business entered into receivership, a financial situation where a guardian is assigned to oversee the business’ assets to improve profitability. With ties to Thurston County, husband and wife duo, Carrigan and Craig first heard about Fish Brewing’s receivership and subsequent availability while speaking with members of Craig’s family, who live in Olympia and Yelm.
“I grew up in Yelm so there’s a lot of constant discussion of what’s going on in the community,” says Craig. “When my dad brought up the fact that the business was in receivership, we were both really surprised because we both had been to the pub and had been through the Olympia area for a long time. It seemed like such a staple in the downtown area, so we were kind of curious about why was it in receivership.”
With no initial intent to purchase Fish Brewing, Carrigan and Craig contacted the business’s receiver to get a full understanding of the brewery’s circumstances. After this conversation, both Craig and Carrigan first entertained the possibility of ownership because they both feel strongly about Fish Brewing’s role in the community and they want it to continue to be an asset to the Olympia area. Carrigan currently owns a bar in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle, Still Liquor, which has provided him experience in the bar and restaurant industry.
“We knew we’d really have to give Fish Brewing some love and felt really confident that we could do that,” says Craig. “Changing things to improve the experience and make it a great business for the community again.”
After taking ownership of Fish Brewing in December 2019, Carrigan and Craig are already immersing themselves in the brewery’s operations. As new owners, the couple are first acquainting themselves with how the business currently runs, which will help inform them on how to carry out future plans.
“We didn’t want to do that making assumptions, to plan without actually being there,” explains Craig. “So we spend a lot of time working with the staff and going through all the elements. I would say we’re very much in the planning phase and we’re doing that as deeply and as quickly as possible so that we can have a substantial plan to move forward into the rest of 2020 and beyond.”
An initial need for the brewery is to hire certain roles in management and marketing that currently sit vacant. Another long-term goal is to create more cohesive and consistent branding within the Fish Tale Ales, Leavenworth Biers and Spire Mountain Cider lines, emphasizing the brews that resonate most with the customers.
“We want to get really clear for each one of the brands, what the brand’s about so we that can get to innovating and making things that are right for the brand,” says Craig. “That they have meaning, and it feels like there’s continuity between the products under each brand.”
As more employees are hired and operational plans are solidified, Craig and Carrigan are also exploring the possibility of hosting a range of events at the Fish Tail Brewpub. Community event ideas include live music, a lecture series and seasonal beer release parties.
“We think that the Brew Pub is really a unique space,” says Craig. “It’s pretty big inside and can have a pretty wide variety of things that can go on in it. They are all just ideas at this point, but we definitely want to create reasons for people to get together more often.”
In their first month of ownership, both Carrigan and Craig are excited about the future of Fish Brewing and their future of working with the local Olympia community. Wanting to honor the brewery’s legacy in the community, Carrigan and Craig are hoping that as owners, they can maintain classic products the brewery produces while also ensuring the business can evolve in relevant ways as time progresses.
“We’re really excited to be in the Olympia community,” says Carrigan. “We think it’s a great business. We love the beer. We love the people. There’s a lot of great people that have stuck around there, even through the bad times. We’re just excited to get it tuned up and have two fresh faces and really just build the brand from where it was left off and reignite it as we move forward.”
For more information about Fish Brewing or the Fish Tail Brewpub, visit the Fish Brewing Company website.