YAKIMA — Most of the hops have been harvested. The fresh hop beers aren’t so fresh anymore. The Fresh Hop Ale Fest, one of the largest beer festivals in the state, has made its curtain call and Yakima’s annual lovefest to the green, cone-shaped flower that mesmerizes Northwest beer drinkers has packed up for the year.
But craft beers are still pouring strong in Yakima.
It wasn’t always this way. As the No. 1 producer of hops in the nation, Yakima is known for hops and helping American brewers bring robust flavor to their beers. But after Bert Grant opened the first microbrewery in America since Prohibition in Yakima in 1982, things went quiet here. As the rest of the state and nation underwent a craft beer craze, Yakima remained a one-brewery town until Grant’s Brewery Pub closed its doors for good in 2003.
Yakima has a richer tradition of wineries than breweries. The state’s first and largest American Viticultural Area, Rattlesnake Hills AVA, has more than 17,000 acres of vineyards, and is one of a number that also include Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain, Horse Heaven Hills and Naches Heights.
A decade ago even cideries were more prevalent in Yakima Valley, with Tieton Cider Works taking advantage of the proximity of so many apple farms to open a large cidery and tasting room in 2008.
Over the past decade, though, Yakima has seen a boom in craft beer. Starting in 2008 with Yakima Craft Brewing Co., which built its brewhouse around Grant’s original boil kettle, Yakima’s thirst for craft beer grew. Eight more breweries have opened since, including Bale Breaker Brewing, one of the fastest growing breweries in the state.
For a place that grows 75 percent of the hops used to make beer in the U.S., it only makes sense.
Any self-respecting craft beer fan should start their Yakima journey at Bale Breaker. Founded by fourth-generation hop farmers in 2013, Bale Breaker runs a 27,000-square-foot facility smack dab in the middle of a working hop field in Moxee, just outside of Yakima. Order a Top Cutter IPA, sit outside on the patio and gaze at the long-angled poles and bines of the hop fields as folks play cornhole on the lawn.
The same year that Bale Breaker opened, Mike and Annette Hatten opened Bron Yr Aur Brewing in Naches, about 20 miles northwest of Yakima. There’s plenty of room to stretch out in one of the brewery’s two inside dining areas or the giant patio outside. Order the gourmet bacon cheeseburger pizza and a pint of gold-medal winning Thriller Pillar Porter.
Bring Fido as well. There’s a huge playfield for dogs to run and the Hattens love them, having put on the annual Brontoberfest in mid-October that includes a dog costume contest and wiener dog races for the past few years.
A number of smaller breweries also are worth checking out, including Hop Nation Brewing and Berchman’s Brewing in downtown Yakima and Cowiche Creek Brewing in Cowiche. One other brewery that attracted big crowds at the recent Fresh Hop Ale Fest, Varietal Brewing, is slated to open a taproom in early 2018 in Sunnyside.
Besides breweries, Yakima has plenty of other craft beer-focused eateries, taprooms and businesses. Cowiche Canyon Kitchen + Icehouse is a restaurant/bar with an extensive tap list of local beer and wine, upscale pub grub and knowledgeable staff.
Just down the street, Crafted, a hip eatery and bar, serves an ever-changing menu of locally sourced food. The drinks menu has specialty cocktails and wine and a tap list jam-packed with local beers, including hard-to-find ales from places like the aforementioned Varietal Brewing.
If you’re looking for a hard-to-find bottle, wander over to the straightforward named The Beer Shoppe. With 550 different bottles of beer on its shelves and 21 taps, The Beer Shoppe can appeal to the most discerning of craft beer snobs.
A unique place to stop in Yakima is Yakima Valley Hops, one of the largest online hop sellers in the nation. Yakima Valley Hops also is a home brew shop and a place for hop enthusiasts to go a little crazy. Sniff the beer soap and candles, purchase brewing supplies and check out the racks upon racks of bagged hops.
After all that hoppy beer, it’s nice to actually see, smell and touch what all the fuss is about.
Yakima Craft Beer
Breweries: Bale Breaker Brewing, 1801 Birchfield Road, Yakima, 509-424-4000, www.balebreaker.com; Berchman’s Brewing Co., 25 N. Front St. No. 2, Yakima, 509-225-9610, berchmansbrewingcompany.com; Bron Yr Aur Brewing Co., 12160 U.S. 12, Naches; 509-653-1109, www.bronyraurbrewing.com; Cowiche Creek Brewing Co., 514 Thompson Road, Cowiche, 509-678-0324, cowichecreekbrewing.com; Hop Nation Brewing, 31 N. First Ave., Yakima, 509-367-6552, hopnation.us; Yakima Craft Brewing Co., 2920 River Road, No. 6, Yakima, 509-654-7357, www.yakimacraftbrewing.com.
Other businesses: Cowiche Canyon Kitchen + Icehouse, 202 E. Yakima Ave., Yakima, 509-457-2007, www.cowichecanyon.com; Crafted, 22 N. First St., Yakima, 509-426-2220, craftedyakima.com; Yakima Valley Hops and Brew Supply, 702 N. First Ave., Yakima, 208-649-4677, www.yakimavalleyhops.com.