Washington may be divided on a number of issues, but there’s at least one thing both sides of the state have in common: a love for Rainier Beer.
The company launched in Seattle in 1878, though Spokane had a small role in the company’s success as the location of a Rainier brewery in the 1950s and ’60s.
Calling back to its Spokane history, the beer company has teamed up with local apparel designer The Great PNW to create a limited edition collection.
The Great PNW and Rainier Beer will celebrate the collaboration at the collection’s release party Friday at the Washington Cracker Building.
The Great PNW is the creation of designer Joel Barbour, a Spokane native who grew up road tripping and camping all over the Northwest.
After positive feedback on his design work for others, Barbour, who previously worked at digital agency Seven2, felt it was time to design for himself.
“I just felt there wasn’t an apparel company that filled the spot that we encompass,” Barbour said. “I thought ‘I don’t see anything out there that exists like what’s in my head.’ ”
What was in Barbour’s head? A casual wear company that reps the Upper Left and the natural beauty it has to offer.
Though not performance gear, The Great PNW’s shirts, sweaters, caps and beanies, and accessories like enamel mugs, koozies, pins and patches would be right at home on a long hike or fireside after a day at the lake.
It was this quality that appealed to Rainier brand manager Michael Scott.
“I’ve been seeing their stuff online and at REI and some smaller shops around town here in Seattle and really liked their work and thought it was in line with our consumer and what they enjoy and what they wear,” he said.
When Rainier reached out to Barbour about a potential collaboration, he was surprised “We’re tiny. We’re three people,” he said. “They’re Rainier Beer. They’ve been around since 1878.” But the collaboration made perfect sense.
“Being that they were founded in Seattle, they’re very much a staple of the Northwest,” Barbour said. “They’re still considered a Northwest beer. They still have offices over in Seattle. That connection was a no-brainer.”
After researching Rainier’s history, and being a product of the ’80s himself, Barbour was inspired to create a collection that, in his words, looked as if it could’ve been found in your dad’s or grandpa’s closet.
Rainier, who Barbour called the most ideal client ever, was on board immediately.
“He really leveraged pieces that are iconic for Rainier and pieces that are touch points for PNW as well,” Scott said.
The six-piece collection features a snapback hat, three T-shirts, a three-quarters sleeve shirt and a hoodie.
The Rainier name and/or the company’s iconic red “R” logo adorn each piece. The black and red “Sportser ¾ Sleeve” shirt reads “In The Great PNW It’s Rainier Beer.”
Another shirt, the “Gold Tops Tee,” reads “It’s Gold Tops In The Great Pacific Northwest.” “Gold tops” is a nickname for Rainier Beer.
This shirt, which features the image of a gold top of a can with a red pull tab surrounded by a mountain and the sun, pays homage to Rainier’s Tabs for Trees program, which asks consumers to send in red tabs from Rainier cans. In exchange for the tabs, Rainier plants trees as part of a partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation.
The Great PNW’s logo, a geometric take on a mountain range and a forest, is also on five of the six pieces.
“It really gave us the opportunity to do something very different than what we’re used to,” Barbour said. “We’re really outdoorsy because that’s just the nature of the Northwest, so to be able to change our image a little bit for this whole collab was a lot of fun … It was a great match of both brands in all the designs.”
Fans of Rainier and the Great PNW alike agree. The way sales have been going since the collection’s May 1 launch, Barbour estimates the entire collection, which is printed by Spokane Valley’s Zome Design, will be sold out in six to eight weeks.
The collection is available at thegreatpnw.com or locally at Atticus Coffee and Gifts, Kingsley & Scout and Boulevard Mercantile. The collection will also be available for purchase at the release party at the Washington Cracker Building.
The release party will also feature specials on, of course, Rainier Beer, a photo booth, live music and 3 Ninjas Food Truck. There will also be a silent auction featuring work from four local artists, with half of the proceeds raised from the auction, and all of the beer sales, benefiting nonprofit arts organization Terrain.
Once the collection sells out, the pieces are gone for good, though the chances of another Great PNW and Rainier Beer collaboration are high.
“Rainier’s already talked about ‘Next year, let’s do this,’ ” Barbour said. “So assuming we don’t burn the building down and it’s a disaster at the party, we’ll do this again next year.”