Lost History

Bottled in Seattle

Seattle is well known for its striking skyline, energetic culture, and extensive history that goes back much beyond its busy streets. Beyond the tech advances and coffee culture, Seattle’s history of liquor production, distillation, and craft beers is an engrossing story of ingenuity, adaptability, and Emerald City spirit.

Pouring Over Seattle’s Liquid Tapestry

Prohibition and Speakeasies

One of the first places to implement Prohibition was Seattle. In 1916, the city decided to go dry four years ahead of the rest of the nation. Alcohol manufacturing and sales were outlawed by a state initiative. Seattleites, known for their resilience and ingenuity, found ways to indulge in their favorite libations. Speakeasies, hidden establishments serving illicit alcohol, flourished in the city’s underground scene, becoming the secret hubs of the city’s social life.

Seattle Speakeasy
Roy Olmstead - Bootlegger Seattle

Bootleggers and Rumrunners

Soon after the new state regulation was passed, a flourishing black market quickly developed to meet the unexpected demand for illegal alcohol. Roy Olmstead was one of the most infamous rumrunners in Seattle. Bootleggers carried illegal booze by land, rumrunners used the sea. Roy started off as a Seattle Police officer, but when his pay from the department wasn’t enough, he went to a side business of bootlegging. Olmstead was well-liked for his excellent liquor and gentlemanly demeanor. He never used a gun, gambled, or went out with ladies of the night.


Between Seattle and Tacoma, Frank Gatt, a visionary restaurateur, orchestrated an expansive moonshining operation. This venture designed to quench the thirst of the local residents residing in the vicinity. Gatt’s moonshining hub not only produced spirits but also became a pivotal part of the local drinking culture, leaving an indelible mark on the region’s history.

Seattle Moonshiners
New Beers Eve

New Beers Eve

April 6, 1933: known as New Beers Eve. That’s what people were referring to it as, when the prohibition restrictions in Washington were lifted, On April 7, at midnight, a tavern located near 4th Avenue in Seattle poured the first drink. There was a song in the hearts of adults that night ‘happy days are beer again’

Seattle Beer Culture

The Seattle region is now well-known for being an outstanding beer travel destination, its brewing heritage extends well before Washington became a state. In 1854, when Seattle was only about three years old, the expanding logging town’s population needed it to begin brewing its own beer. Four significant breweries were operating in Seattle by 1886: North Pacific, Bay View, Puget Sound Brewery, and Seattle Brewery. In 1893, a recently established brewery introduced a new beer called Rainier, after the mountain that could be seen from their brewery.

Rainier Beer 1934
Distilled in Washington

Stories to Savor

Join author and journalist Becky Garrison as she traces the history of the barrel and the bottle from early settlement to the modern craft distilling boom in the Evergreen State. Take an extensive tour of the distilleries in Washington State.

Alcohol has a troubled past in Washington. Before the area ever became a state, in 1854, there were attempts to outlaw or prohibit it, and blue laws persisted long into the twentieth century. The booze industry has spurred both turmoil and creativity, from Jimmie Durkin, an ambitious bar owner, to Roy Olmstead, a former Seattle police officer turned gentleman bootlegger.

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