Touring the Spirits and Hops Trail

Last week we toured a few of the businesses on the trail, enjoying a behind-the-scenes look at their operations and getting to know the people making these fine beverages.

First stop on the tour was Tieton Cider Works. The fruit that is used in their cider comes from Craig and Sharon Campbell’s Harmony Orchards, which has been in their family since the 1920’s.  Rob McCurdy took us on a tour of the production line and explained the cider making process.  Did you Tieton Cider  Juice processingknow that cideries in Washington are licensed as wineries? Rob shared the fact that based on gallons produced, Tieton Cider Works is among the top 20 ‘wineries’ in the state.  After the tour,  cider maker Marcus Robert provided samples and talked about the craft of cider making. Tieton Cider products are available at many locations.

From there we took a quick, impromptu side trip to Tieton Farm and Creamery,  a 21-acre farm located  on a grassy hill near Tieton.  Owned and operated by farmer Ruth Babcock and cheese maker Lori Babcock, they have been producing quality artisan goat and sheep blended cheeses since 2010.  You can find their cheeses at these retail outlets.

Glacier Basin TastingHeading south through county back roads we next visited Glacier Basin Distillery located at The Cave at Gilbert Cellars near Wiley City.  Master distiller Thomas Hale provided samples of his Grappa, a grape pomace brandy of Italian origin. It has a smooth sipping, fruity finish, hand crafted from Washington State grapes. Exciting developments are in the works at The Cave as a tasting room is being built for the distillery and an on-site brewery will soon be under construction.  Thomas shared that tastings of his products are currently available during the special events at The Cave.

IMG_3760While there, Jessica Moskwa of Gilbert Cellars provided samples of their fine wines and a tour of the Cave, plus discussed future plans for their facility.  If you have not been out there for one of their events it’s a must see.  Their new grassy performance venue is IMG_3750gorgeous and the setting among orchards and lavender can’t be beat.  While the Cave is only open during special events,  you can visit their main tasting room in downtown Yakima year-round.

After soaking in some sun we loaded up the bus again. Final stop of the day was Bale Breaker Brewing Company.

Bale Breaker Tour and BusThe staff at Bale Breaker welcomed us with samples of their popular Field 41 Pale Ale and Topcutter IPA.  After a great lunch provided by nanakates of Selah, the crew was treated to a tour with Kevin Quinn, co-owner, brewer, sales, distributor and ‘jack of all hop trades’.  Having a chance to view their new facility carved out of a hop field was an experience.  Kevin knows his hops and taught us much about their growing patterns, lifecycle, harvest and production.

After seeing the hop heads on the bines (not vines) just outside the Bale Breaker beer cans and kegs ready for their frothy brew!tasting room, we headed indoors for a tour of the plant.  Kevin extolled the many values of producing beer in cans including environmental friendliness, protecting the beer from exposure to light, easier transport for outdoor activities and less packaging.  The stacks of empty beers cans ready for production were a site to see!

It was a great day touring the bounty of the Yakima Valley.  Harvest time is upon us so come visit the Spirits and Hops Trail.

Special thanks to A&A Motorcoach and our professional driver Rich for a great job navigating the back roads of Yakima County.

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2 thoughts on “Touring the Spirits and Hops Trail

  1. Great post! I would love to see the law change and classify cideries as brewers like beer. The classification makes it hard for cideries to be in new breweries, and new breweries want cideries in their taprooms as it gives a non beer and usually gluten free option for the patrons. Right now many taprooms are operating illegally by having a cider tap. Makes a ton of sense from a business standpoint for both industries to be lumped together as opposed to cider and wine. IMHO this year is going to be big for cider. I wouldn’t be surprised if consumption goes up at least 1-2% for total alcohol consumed in the US. That’s a big jump for a small industry! I think right now they sit at like 2% of consumption so getting to 3% or 4% would be huge. Always like seeing posts about my old home town and what’s going on from the spirits and hops perspective (I’m affiliated with a local brewery out here in Woodinville, WA). Looking forward to your a post about fresh hop ales! I’m hoping there will be some available at either Bale Breaker or some on tap at Bob’s when I come to town for my monthly visit at the end of this month.

    • Thanks Tony and we agree about cideries being lumped in with wineries. Definitely ciders are coming into their own. With the Fresh Hop Ale Festival coming up October 5th there are lots of reasons to celebrate the fresh brews. Now we just need someone to help us write the fresh hop blog.

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