A FIELD GUIDE TO HOPS

The Yakima Valley is one of the most important hop growing regions in the world, and the craft beer industry wouldn’t be what it is today without our Valley’s hop growers. Though millions of people enjoy the beer that our hops help produce, most people don’t know the first thing about hops and how they are used to create that beer. Check out our FAQ that will help you get a better understanding of how hops are grown, harvested and processed, and how they are used in the beer brewing process.

SO WHAT IS A HOP?IMG_3787
Humulus Lupulus (hops) are the flowering cones of a perennial climbing vine (called bines) that is primarily used in the beer brewing process. Hops have been used in brewing since the early days to ward off spoilage from wild bacteria, and to bring balance to the sweetness of malts. Hops also help with head retention (the foam on your beer), act as a natural filtering agent, and impart unique flavors and aromas, including (but certainly not limited to!) the bitterness in beer.

WHY ARE SO MANY HOPS GROWN IN THE YAKIMA VALLEY?
The Yakima Valley has proven to have the ideal combination of the right climate, day length, soil and access to irrigation systems for hop growing, which is why over 75% of our nation’s hops are grown here.

Hop6WHAT PART OF THE HOP IS DESIRABLE TO BREWERS?
The female hop cone, which forms on the bine in late summer, contains various oils and alpha acids that are essential for the flavor and aroma in beer, especially the hop-forward beers such as IPA’s. Peel open a fully-formed hop cone and you can check out the sticky yellow lupulin glands inside, the active ingredient in hops that give each variety its own flavor and characteristic.

WHEN ARE HOPS HARVESTED?
Around the Yakima Valley, the annual hop harvest generally starts towards the end of August and lasts throughout most of September. Most picking facilities run 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week, for close to 30 days.

DO HOPS HAVE TO BE REPLANTED EACH SEASON?
No, hops are a perennial climbing vine that remains dormant underground throughout the fall and winter. The plant begins to grow from the ground each spring as the weather warms.

Hop7ARE HOP CONES HANDPICKED FROM EACH HOP BINE?
Not anymore! The hop bines are first cut close to the ground by a tractor called a bottom cutter. Then a hop truck is push
ed though the row by a tractor called a top cutter, which cuts the top of the bine from the trellis. The harvested bine is transported back to the picking machine in the back of the hop truck.

SO NOW THE BINE IS IN THE BACK OF A TRUCK. THEN WHAT?
Each bine is hand-loaded (upside-down) into the picking machine. Many of the local picking machines have been around since the 1950’s, and are still going strong!

WHAT HAPPENS IN THE PICKING MACHINE?
After the plant material is stripped from the bine, a series of belts and sorting mechanisms separate the hop cones from the other plant material. A conveyor belt then transports the cones from the picking machine over to the kiln.

A KILN, YOU MEAN LIKE AN OVEN?Hop10
Yes. At harvest time, hops contain roughly 75% moisture. If stored with that amount of moisture throughout the year, they would spoil. Hops are dried in a hop kiln to an ideal moisture content of about 9-10%, allowing them to be stored and used in brewing throughout the year.

HOW ARE HOPS PACKAGED WHEN THEY LEAVE THE FARM?
After the hops are dry and cool, they are compressed into 200 pound, burlap-wrapped bales. Truckloads of bales are delivered to warehouses at hop processing companies around the Yakima Valley, where they will be packed into smaller bales of raw hops, or processed into pellet and extract form. These hop processing companies act as the middle-man between the farmer and brewer. Once the hops have been processed and repackaged, they are shipped to breweries all around the world, ready to be made into delicious beers of all kinds!

Hop11SO WHAT DOES THE BREWER DO ONCE THEY GET THE HOPS?
It depends on the type of beer they are making, but generally, hops are boiled with a malt sugar solution (called wort), and then yeast is added to begin fermentation. The hops’ bitterness counteracts the malt’s natural sweetness, creating a nice balance of flavors. Adjusting the amount of hops versus the amount of malt will give you different types of beer. Obviously a lot more work goes into brewing your favorite beer, but that is the basics.

So the next time you’re sipping on a delicious, hop-heavy IPA, you can tell your friends you know exactly where those hops came from, and how it went from a plant to a beer! And if you really want to experience Yakima Valley hops at their freshest, makes plans to come to Yakima for the Fresh Hop Ale Festival, the first weekend in October every year. All the beers at the event have to be brewed with Yakima Valley hops that went from the bine to the beer within 24 hours. You’ve never tasted beer so fresh!

Thanks to Bale Breaker Brewing for the beautiful photos!

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Yakima Valley Beer and Craft Beverage Festivals This Fall

It’s fall and that means the harvest is in full swing in the Yakima Valley. And where there’s a harvest there’s a festival or two, including ones that celebrate our beers, ciders and distilled products along the Spirits and Hops Trail.

So here’s a brief run down of a few coming up:

AOT_YAKIMA_DIGILATERAL_504-x-504America on Tap is coming to Downtown Yakima on Saturday, September 12th from 2pm-5pm. This three hour premium event will showcase over 100 releases from some of America’s best craft breweries including a number of local breweries. Attendees will sample beers in an atmosphere filled with live music, delicious food available for purchase, and great vendors. Participants must be at least 21 years of age to attend. Standard Tickets are $35 per person in advance and $45 at the door. For more information visit America On Tap Yakimaindex

The 13th annual Fresh Hop Ale Festival returns to downtown Yakima October 3rd. It’s the largest beer festival of it’s kind and was recently rated one of the top ten beer festivals in the USA.  As organizers say “Fresh Hop Ale Festival is the original fresh hop beer festival, and is still the best.” Enjoy access to over 40 breweries and wineries, plus cider, a cigar tent, live music, collectible pint glass, special beers on Beer Bike,  and three free half pints. $35 Per Ticket,  $65 Per VIP Ticket, $850 Per VIP Table.

indexThe Prosser Beer and Whiskey Festival is October 10th in the quaint town of Prosser. The event includes live music, food, rib cook-off, a bacon blitz, specialty vendors, VIP cigar lounge and much more. Must be 21 or over; ID required. General Admission: $15 – includes entrance and logo glass. VIP: $50 – limited to 300 tickets, includes logo glass, 20 tokens towards food and drink purchases, access to cigar lounge, pre-event distillery tour at Blue Flame Spirits, and welcome bag. All Access: $75 – limited to 100 tickets, includes logo glass, 25 tokens towards food and drink purchases, access to cigar lounge, pre-event distillery tour at Blue Flame Spirits, and welcome bag. Buy Tickets Here. For information call 509-786-3177

And there’s more! To keep on top of all the fall events, check the Yakima Valley Tourism’s Fall Celebrations website.  Remember, please enjoy responsibly and have a designated driver. See you in the Valley!

 

Check Out The Hop-portunities on the Yakima Valley!

HOPS 2Hop-por·tu·ni·ty

 Noun: Hop-portunity; plural noun: Hop-portunities

  1. A set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something involving hops. Example: “We will see increased hop-portunities to enjoy craft beer.
  2. Synonyms: Favorable time, occasion, moment, right set of circumstances, opening, window (of hop-portunity), and possibility.

Now is the time to celebrate the hop harvest in the Yakima Valley, which grows 78% of the hops sold in the USA.  Plan to attend three festivals celebrating the craft beer made from these Yakima Valley grown hops. Visit the only Hop Museum in the nation; learn about the history of growers in the valley. Take the hop-portunity to taste what the Yakima Valley brews. Visit Hop Nation Brewing Co., Yakima Craft Brewing Co., Bale Breaker Brewery, Snipes Mountain Brewery and Restaurant; All craft breweries located in the heart of hop country.

And here are some events to enjoy our local craft brews:

9/12/2015 America On Tap Craft Beer FestivalDowntown Yakima 2pm-5pm. Showcasing over 100 releases from some of America’s best craft breweries! Attendees will sample beers in an atmosphere filled with live music, delicious food available for purchase, and great vendors. Standard Ticket $35 *Ticket Prices Increase by $10 at the Door. Include: 3 Hours of Beer Sampling /Souvenir Sampling Glass/Live Music Entertainment.

10/3/2015 13th Annual Fresh Hop Ale Festival:  5 -10 p.m. Experience why this festival was voted as one of the top ten beer festivals in the nation; the original fresh hop beer festival, and still the best. Live music by Legs & Cracker Factory. Over 40 breweries, over 100 beers to try, rare treats on the beer bike cruising around the festival, because we think that sometimes beer should come to you. Cheers! We know you love fresh hop beers, but sometimes your entourage is looking for something different. Local wineries such as Tieton Cider Works, Gilbert Cellars, Kana Winery, Antolin Cellars,Treveri Cellars, Naches Heights Vineyard, Swede Hill Distillery will also be pouring at the 2015 festival.

Take advantage of these great hop-portunities to enjoy craft beverages from the heart of the hop world.

(Thanks to our sister site  YKM509 for letting us share this entry)

Sunnyside to Host Ale Fest in June

10403594_812257152195105_4046189195267429752_nWe love festivals in the Yakima Valley and summer is prime time for festive fun.

Our friends in Sunnyside have created a new beer fest, giving you another opportunity to enjoy our locally crafted beers along the Spirits and Hops Trail.  The Sunnyside Summer Ale Fest takes place Saturday, June 27th at Centennial Square (6th and Edison) in downtown Sunnyside. Developed by the Sunnyside Daybreak Rotary Club, the event runs from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

According to the festival website, “The idea for Sunnyside Summer Ale Fest came about like most good ideas do–over a pint of great beer between friends. Okay, a few pints of great beer. Our community is known for producing some of the world’s finest hops, so we will honor our area’s hop production by celebrating the wonderful beer that it helps produce.”

Given the festival is in early summer, organizers will encourage the breweries to focus on summer ales. Local breweries tapped for the event include Bale Breaker, Snipes Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills plus Icicle Brewing of Leavenworth. Wineries slated to participate at this time include Upland Estates and Cote Bonneville. And if you get hungry, Hop Town Pizza and Ann’s Best Creole and Soul Food will be on hand.

On Friday night there will be a special brewer’s dinner paired with craft beers at Bon Vino’s Bistro  (122 N. 16th St.).

Early bird tickets (through June 20th) are $20. Admission for the brewer’s dinner is $40 each. Buy tickets and get more details at their website. Proceeds will help fund sports programs for kids in Sunnyside.

News and Updates Along the Yakima Valley Spirits and Hops Trail

Tieton Cider Works ExteriorFolks are still basking in the glow after what appears to be the most successful Fresh Hop Ale Festival in downtown this past weekend. Unofficial projections place the attendance at nearly 7,000! There was a lot of activity and energy, not to mention perfect weather and a stellar sunset! Congrats to the organizers and volunteers who made it a success.

Now on to more fall fun!

Our friends at Tieton Cider Works are planning a new chapter in their operation by opening a Yakima tasting room. The expanded space will include a Cider Bar complete with 6 taps of their core and seasonal ciders. The official ribbon cutting will take place on location Thursday, October 30th at 3:30pm. Cider and light refreshments will follow in the Cider Bar. Their Grand Opening Celebration is slated for Saturday, Nov 1 from noon to 5 p.m. with cider tastings, facility tours and give-aways.  Their new digs are at 619 West J Street, Yakima.

While not a spirit or hop product, the annual wine crush celebrations are an emerging event in the Yakima Valley with dozens of wineries participating. Wine makers and staff will be sharing how wine is made as the grape crush is literally happening. Plus there will be wine discounts, food, harvest dinners, music and more at different wineries. Here’s a link of our member wineries and their activities coming up this week. Also, the Prosser Chamber of Commerce is putting on a Beer and Whiskey Festival Saturday October 11th so check that out too.

There’s lots of other celebrations and events happening this fall in the Yakima Valley to celebrate the season and harvest.

Finally, congratulations to the folks and businesses recognized as part of Sip Northwest magazine’s Best of the Northwest 2014, including Bale Breaker, Tieton Cider Works, Gilbert Cellars and Alexandria Nicole. Special call out to Sharon Campbell of Tieton Cider for being recognized as an cider industry influencer (so true) and Fresh Hop Ale Festival for being the Best Festival in the Northwest (agree).

See you on the Spirits and Hops Trail!

Fresh Hop Ale Festival Returns to Yakima

FHAF4Hey all you fresh brewed hop heads! The Fresh Hop Ale Festival returns next week so get your tickets.

Billed as one of the 10 Best Brew Festivals in the nation by various online magazines such as Americas Best Online, Suds Magazine and Seattle Beer news, the 12 annual Fresh Hop Ale Festival gets underway Saturday, October 4th from 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. in in downtown Yakima. Attendees can sample a selection of 36 different craft beers and fresh hop brewed beers, local wines and ciders. Various local restaurants will also be on hand to serve.   Live music includes Seattle bands Cumulus and Smokey Brights.

This event is big! More than over 5,000 people are expected.  General admission is $30.00 online and $35.00 day of event at the gate. Proceeds from the event support two local art institutions the Yakima Valley Museum and the Seasons Performance Hall.

Other festivities prior to this event include the 2014 Brewers Dinners, Oct. 1st – Oct. 3rd where brewers and chefs pair their talents and products to create memorable dining experiences. Participating restaurants & breweries are Bert’s Pub with Bale Breaker Brewing Company, Second Street Grill will host Fremont Brewing Company, and the Yakima Valley Hops Brew Bash, hosted by Fresh Hop with Sierra Nevada beer served, along with a few other drink choices.

For more information on the 2014 Fresh Hop Ale Festival visit http://freshhopalefestival.com/index.html

 

(Photo by Sara Lasha)

Prosser to Launch Beer and Whiskey Festival

Beer & Whiskey FestivalLong a focal point of the wine industry, the Prosser Chamber and community partners are looking to expand their reputation into other adult beverages with the Prosser Beer and Whiskey Festival October 11th from 4- 10 p.m.

Several northwest breweries and distilleries are scheduled to be on-hand providing attendees with a wide selection to taste. In addition to featuring local brews and spirits, there will be live music, food vendors and a rib cook-off judged by local chefs. Ticket packages start at $15 for General Admission which includes entrance and a logo glass. A $50 VIP ticket is limited to 200 tickets and includes a logo glass, 25 tokens towards food and drink purchases, and access to the cigar lounge. The $75 All Access passes are limited to only 100, and include a logo glass, 30 tokens towards food and drink purchases, access to the cigar lounge, a pre-event distillery tour at Blue Flame Spirits, and a welcome bag. Event only open to those 21 and over.

Event venue is the Prosser Wine & Food Park, 2880 Lee Road Prosser, WA 99350. (We wonder if after this event they’ll have to change that name?). Another great event along the Yakima Valley Spirits and Hops Trail!

Tickets for the event are on-sale now and can be purchased at www.tourprosser.com or by calling the Prosser Chamber of Commerce office at 509-786-3177.

Case of the Blues and All That Jazz

OCase of the Bluesne of the biggest events of the summer is this here! A Case of the Blues and All That Jazz is Saturday, 5-11pm at Sarg Hubbard Park along the beautiful Yakima Greenway near downtown. This blues and jazz festival not only is a fun celebration but it also benefits the community through the Yakima Greenway Foundation and Junior League of Yakima programs.

What we love is that local breweries, wineries and great local food will be available. For live entertainment there’s Tuck Foster & The Mossrites, Anni Piper and the popular Billy D and the Hoodoos.

Please note that this is a 21 and over event.  Tickets are $40 in advance and $45 day of the event. Visit yakimagreenway.org/blues for event information and tickets or call 509-453-8280. Check also their Facebook page for updates.

Washington Brewers Festival On Tap This Weekend

WA_brewers_fest_largeThis Father’s Day weekend, make plans to go to the ‘big daddy brewfest’, the Washington Brewers Festival in Redmond WA.  It’s billed as the single largest gathering of Washington breweries and is organized by the Washington Beer Commission. Some 88 breweries will be serving  around 330 different beers during the event. In other words, craft beer nirvana!

Activities include musical entertainment Friday night from Hell’s Belles, a group of hard-rockin’ women, a  kid’s play area, the Washington Beer Awards winners announced good food and more.

Local breweries include Bale Breaker Brewing Company serving their dry-hopped blonde ale Raging Ditch Dry-Hopped, plus Field 41 Pale Ale and Topcutter IPA; Snipes Mountain has their Buckaroo  SIPA and Dos Borrachos Michoacán on tap plus Yakima Craft will be serving up their 1982, IPA and Wizard Experimental IPA. Check this list of all the breweries pouring during the event.

For all the details read this Beer Blog post.

Have a hoppy weekend from the folks here at the Spirits and Hops Trail!

Spirits and Hops Trail News and Updates

tieton-3As spring quickly turns to summer in the Yakima Valley there’s a lot of developments along the Spirits and Hops Trail. Here’s a sampling of the latest news:

  • Tieton Cider Works has purchased a 40,000 square foot building in Yakima with plans to make it their production facility and a tasting room. Management will make announcements regarding their plans, including the location, in June. We look forward to the new facility!
  • Along that line, the Yakima Herald Republic recently reported that Yakima Craft Brewery is planning a downtown Yakima location. We’ll share more details when they become public so stay tuned. UPDATE May 20: As reported in the Yakima Herald Republic the new location will be in the Larson Building on Yakima Avenue in downtown Yakima.
  • Congrats to the folks at Bale Breaker Brewing Company for being awarded Tourism Business of the Year by Yakima Valley Tourism. Well deserved. And if you had not heard yet, their beers are now being served at Safeco Field during Mariner games. Play ball!
  • A new festival is being created in Yakima! The Yakima Blues and Local Brews Bash will debut Saturday, June 14th in the Historic North Front Street district in Downtown Yakima.  The festival will feature local, nationally recognized, and internationally acclaimed blues artists from 2:00 pm to 9:00 pm.  A highlight of the fun will be craft beers brewed in the Central Washington region, Yakima Valley wine and food prepared by Historic North Front Street district restaurants. There will be kid events too!

Anyway, look forward to seeing you in the Yakima Valley this summer.