I am always the first one at the bar to order a round of Rainer for my unsuspecting friends. If only for the simple joy of seeing “Made with Yakima Valley Hops” adorning the gold banner on its neck, giving me the opportunity to talk about the joys of Yakima. (And, of course, it is crisp and refreshing!).
But what really refreshes me is the recent surge in craft brewing in the Yakima Valley.
Crack open a cold one and settle in for a little history. In 1982, Bert Grant made Yakima headquarters of the craft beer movement by opening the first post-prohibition brew pub: Grant’s Brewery Pub. It was no small feat. Grant’s was credited with reviving the craft beer movement and re-popularizing the style of IPA beers in the US. Even more important, over 77% of US hop production comes from the Yakima Valley. With a history like this, it is a little shocking to realize that Grant’s was our one and only brewery for 15 years, and was only joined by one other (can you name it?) after another 10 years passed.
A new day is upon us, and I say: let the hops flow!
The past year has brought with it the buzz of new and emerging breweries, a brew pub and a hop shop in town. Most recently we have been introduced to Bale Breaker, the Smith family-owned brewery opening in Moxee this month to much acclaim. They have taken an 80-year tradition of growing hops, added the passion of the next generation for craft beers and created a fantastic product, which is already the talk of the town.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend an “Idea Jam” (more on that in a future blog), located for the evening in a warehouse on what most of the locals know as Fruit Row (North 1st Avenue in the warehouse district of downtown Yakima). I entered the rustic warehouse and inhaled. What I was greeted with was an ambiance (and hoppy aroma!) most often reserved for neighborhoods like the Pearl District of Portland. But I was not in Portland, and the cold beer thrust into my hand was produced by local home-brew sensations Moonbase Brewing, who meet weekly to test out new recipes in order to hone their craft.
This is the brand new Yakima Valley Hop Shop and Brew Supply, opened just days earlier by two Yakima natives, Jeff Perkins and John Snyder. We learned that night that it is the first and only hop shop in town combining hop sales and home-brew supplies (AND soon to be the location of a pub!). With over 35+ hops varieties in stock, they are leading the charge in this niche field here in town.
What else is Yakima brewing? Coming soon to a storefront near you will be Hop Central, starring a locally notorious home-brewer sharing his talent with the masses, and The Drawing Board, a brew-pub designed by a professional brewer, slated to open this year in downtown. Once you blend in the efforts of Yakima Craft Brewing, serving Yakimanics their tasty brew since 2008, Snipes Mountain Brewery (est. 1997), and the nationally recognized Fresh Hop Ale Festival (est. 2003), you have a regular brew-ha-ha. (Sorry, can’t resist a pun.) Perhaps you, dear reader, have aspirations to get into the hop or beer industry here in town? Jump on in, the beer is cold and the summers get hot!
--Laura Rankin (Rainer-kin?)