Sipping in the Hop Capital: Yakima Valley

Photo Courtesy of Bale Breaker Brewing
Washington’s Yakima Valley is a land flowing with proverbial milk and honey—or rather, hops and craft beer, because it’s these that this desert valley produces in abundance. In fact, the area grows about 75 percent of the entire nation’s hops, which makes it a veritable paradise for brewers and beer enthusiasts across the U.S.
 
But until a few years ago, the Yakima Valley didn’t seem to be taking advantage of its hop heritage. Only a few craft breweries called on the agricultural wealth of their community in order to produce small batch brews.
 
Then, about five years ago, local craft breweries began popping up in the valley, and locals couldn’t drive across town without being lured into a taproom with the promise of craft beer and a friendly game of cornhole. Now, there are more than a dozen breweries in the Yakima Valley, and the Yakima Valley Brew Trail invites locals and visitors alike to meander from one unique brewery to the next, sampling more than just hoppy beverages, but the flavor of the region in a sensory carnival that allows you to see, touch, smell and taste in an area that truly offers a field-to-pint experience.
 
“You can really experience where your beer comes from and that’s a huge factor—the connection with the product,” says John Snyder, owner of Yakima Valley Hops. “That’s a really cool thing you don’t get when you go to Portland or Seattle.”
 
To experience the best the brew trail has to offer, start at Bale Breaker Brewing Company where you’ll find not only a brewery, but also a working hop farm. You can get a tour led by a Bale Breaker expert on the third Saturday of the month throughout the Summer and down a pint of Topcutter or Bottomcutter—named for hop harvesting equipment—while gazing out over fields of bines.
 
Another local favorite, Single Hill Brewing, offers everything from sours to light beers, hop-forward to classic brews, and a variety of experimental styles and flavors. They also offer to-go crowlers and growler refills if you couldn’t get enough in the taproom. The brewery is barely a year old, and locals are taken with the quality brews.
 
Make sure to stop by Yakima’s oldest craft brewery, Yakima Craft Brewing Company, for live music, pub food, and their Wizard IPA. It’s one of the brewery’s best sellers, but don’t discount the limited-edition collaborations they do with other local breweries and hop producers.
 
Which came first? The orchard or the cidery? Find out at Tieton Cider Works where you can enjoy a crisp and cleansing break from grain-based brews. In addition to their year-round apple and pear ciders, there is also a dry-hopped cider and several seasonal varieties like lavender honey.
 
Learn more at visityakimavalley.org.