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Heidelberg Brewery Leaves Lumber Legacy


Douglas Fir 14X20, 16X20, 12 to 15 foot lengths from Heidelberg Brewery in Tacoma, WA

Douglas Fir 14X20, 16X20, 12 to 15 foot lengths
from Heidelberg Brewery in Tacoma, WA

A stroll through the Crossroads Recycled Lumber yard with a well-informed salesperson is a lesson in California state history.  From early California adobe homes, to rural sawmills, to glamorous Hollywood movie studios, our lumber represents the people of the Golden State and the stories of their lives.  With Pacific Northwest Timbers in its 3rd year, we are thrilled to be stacking up a warehouse of Washington State History, as well!

In 2011 Pacific Northwest Timbers received a shipment of high-quality large-dimension Douglas Fir timbers from the Columbia-Heidelberg Brewery in Tacoma.  The timbers include 10×16, 14×20 and 16×20 posts and beams that are currently for sale at the PNT yard in Port Townsend.  Like the rest of our inventory, these sticks have a remarkable story to tell.

The Brewery

Columbia-Heidelberg Brewery was a landmark in Tacoma, Washington for over 100 years.  The Original Columbia Brewery was founded in February of 1900 by German beer-makers who came to the U.S. at a time when millions of Germans immigrated to America in response to dramatic political changes in their homeland.  Across the country, recent German immigrants were revolutionizing the American brewing industry and Columbia Brewery reaped the benefits of the knowledge of generations of German brewmeisters.

Columbia Brewery Building, Tacoma 1938Photo from

Columbia Brewery Building, Tacoma 1938
Photo from

When prohibition reached Washington State in 1914, the company adapted to the times and began bottling non-alcoholic “near-beers” and sodas, including the still-popular Sunkist (then called Orange Kist). As the repeal of prohibition became ever-more certain, the company’s new owners did extensive remodeling in preparation to revert to sales of alcoholic beers, and Columbia became the first brewery in Tacoma to legally sell beer after Prohibition.

One of the Brewery’s most popular beers, before and after prohibition, was the Alt Heidelberg, titled after a popular 1903 German play that inspired an operetta and two films all called “The Student Prince.” The play Alt Heidelberg (“Old Heidelberg”) told the story of a prince who clandestinely attends a university in fictional Heidelberg, where he spends most of his time making marry with his friends at the local pub and falls in love with a bar maid.

With the success of the Alt Heidelberg brews after prohibition, the company adopted the logo of the Student Prince, the main character in the popular play. Later, as a sign of the times during World War II the German mascot would be down-played on Alt Heidelberg beers, and the Statue of Liberty adopted on their Columbia beers.

In the 40s and 50s the Student Prince mascot was re-born in a flurry of mid-century-style mass marketing. The company took on the name Heidelberg Brewing Company from one of its most successful and recognizable brews, but did away with the descriptor “alt,” to make way for a new, fresh image. The company continued to be successful, but in 1979 the brewery closed as a result of anti-trust laws, because the latest owner also owned other nearby breweries.

Douglas Fir S4S Beam from Heidelberg Brewery

Douglas Fir S4S Beam from Heidelberg Brewery

Post-Brewery Years

In the 80s and 90s the vault-like brewery buildings were used by the underground arts scene for raves and punk rock concerts. Musicians rented out space there to practice. According to a 2011 Article in Tacoma’s Weekly Volcano “often bands that used the space to practice would host impromptu shows in the cavernous void of the hollow brewery.”

In 2008 the Tacoma Landmark Preservation Commission declined to make the old Brewery a Historic Landmark because it had been renovated so many times that the 1900 building was hardly existent anymore. The building’s infrastructure had been weakened by several fires in the 90’s and 2000’s, and so it was torn down in 2011 to make way for a Holiday Inn.

The building saw several remodels. The original 1900 building was a 5-story wooden structure built around an artesian well. However, in 1932 most of the original structure was replaced, and expanded, in anticipation of the repeal of Prohibition. 1954 saw further expansion of the brewery buildings, bringing the total area of the complex to 4 acres. We believe the posts and beams we have at Pacific Northwest Timbers are from the 1930s and 1950s. Most of this information was digested from the Illustrated History of the Columbia Brewing Company of Tacoma.



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