Rainier 'R' reclaims perch atop old brewery

SEATTLE - Expect a warm glow of nostalgia now that a replica of the original Rainier Beer neon "R" has reclaimed its rightful perch atop the old Rainier Brewery in south Seattle.

Pabst Brewing Co., owner of the Rainier Beer brand, paid to construct a replica of the 'R' as part of the "Restore the R" campaign launched by the Museum of History and Industry, and Wexley School for Girls.

The original 12-foot-high Rainier sign graced the top of the Rainier Brewery from the 1950s until 2000, and now rests restored at MOHAI.

Local sign fabricators Western Neon used old plans to recreate the new sign, spending hours turning gas and glass into the light that will welcome travelers along I-5 into Seattle.

President of Western Neon, Andre Lucero says "It's exciting for us 'cause it gives us the opportunity to not work on just another sign, but a very historical, iconic landmark," Andre Lucero says.

470 LED bulbs brighten the big "R", twice the original number and the bulbs are now on both sides.

After completing the sign, Western Neon mounted the replica on a flatbed truck at its Georgetown shop. The new Rainier 'R' traveled to different neighborhoods in Seattle including Queen Anne, Ballard, Fremont, Belltown and Capitol Hill, as part of a neighborhood crawl kickoff event.

On Thursday, the replica "R" dangled from a crane, ready to make a celebratory return. The neon sign lit-up to a packed crowd outside of the brewery, reclaiming its perch above what was once the sixth biggest brewery in the world.

Thousands came out to celebrate with tons of Rainier Beer, music, food trucks, dancing grazing Rainiers.

As part of the purchase of Tully's, new co-chairman and partial owner Michael Avenatti announced in September that the big green "T" on top of the old Rainier Brewery would be coming down. The "T" will be moved to Tully's new headquarters on Western Avenue near Pike Place Market.

Already critical of the mismanagement that's been plaguing the troubled Tully's company, Avenatti noted in a press release that swapping the "R" out for the "T" in the first place was "a mistake."

"That part of the Seattle skyline has always truly belonged to the 'R," said Avenatti, a lawyer from Los Angeles, calling its meaning "deep" and "historical."

He later tweeted that the new owners were "Happy to do our part to bring back the "R"," adding the hashtag "#makingitright.

Rainier hasn't been locally-owned in decades, and the brewery was closed by Pabst in 1999. It was then renovated and turned into offices and apartments. However, in 2011, Emerald City Brewing purchased some of the space and began brewing the first beer in the building in 11 years.