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!

Latest News Along the Spirits and Hops Trail

Bale Breaker beer cans and kegs ready for their frothy brew!

Bale Breaker Brewing production areaAs summer comes to an end, the fields and orchards are abuzz as the crops are brought in and processed. Harvest is a great time of year in the Yakima Valley along the trail.  Hops and other crops that make our ciders, spirits and wines are being picked and headed to production.

With the exceptionally warm and dry summer, many crops in the Yakima Valley are ahead of schedule. The wine grape harvest began in early August when Chardonnay grapes were picked for Treveri Cellars for their sparkling wines. Now other wine grapes are coming online and the crush is underway earlier than usual and for a longer period.

When it comes to expansion plans,  Bale Baker Brewing Company is mirroring the harvest this year: It’s coming sooner than expected. Last week the owners announced plans to add 16,200 square-feet of space to their existing 11,000 square-foot operation near Yakima. This will give them more space for larger fermentation tanks, a bigger canning line plus space for dry and cold storage. “We’re in the midst of planning out our expansion now, which kind of surprised us because we weren’t planning to fill out this facility for probably five to seven years,” co-owner Kevin Quinn told the Yakima Herald in a feature on the expansion. Congrats to the gang, all of us look forward to your continuing success.

Meanwhile, on the West end of the Yakima Valley region, Bron Yr Aur Brewing Company outside the town of Naches is barreling along to a September opening (we hope!) Follow their progress via their Facebook page. In the meantime, you can stop by and enjoy their pizzas (love the BBQ pulled pork) plus the local and regional beers and ciders they have on tap in their adjoining restaurant.

Wishing you all a wonderful Labor Day weekend. Keep the firefighters battling the wildfires in your thoughts and prayers.

Beer Trivia and Facts

Spirits and Hops Trail beer glassHere’s a compilation of fun, silly and interesting facts around beer, one of our favorite subjects along the Spirits and Hops Trail. Amaze your friends the next time you hoist a glass or two!

  • It was an accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride’s father would supply his son-in law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer, and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the “honey month”, or what we know today as the “honeymoon”. Cheers to that!
  • Along that line, the word “bridal” comes from 19th century Englishmen, who took out their mates for a final “Bride Ale” the day before their wedding.
  • According to a diary entry from a passenger on the Mayflower, the pilgrims made their landing at Plymouth Rock, rather than continue to their destination in Virginia. Why? Lack of beer.
  • In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts. When patrons got unruly, the bartender would yell at them to mind their pints and quarts and settle down. It’s where we get the phrase “mind your P’s and Q’s”.
  • In 1963, Jim Whitaker became the first American to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. A can of Seattle’s own Rainier Beer made the ascent with him. And guess where the hops came from in that beer? Yep, Yakima Valley!
  • For some reason Bourbon is the official alcohol of the United States, by an act of Congress. Probably some zealous Senator from Kentucky made that happen! Wise folks have attempted to have that overturned in favor of beer instead over the years. With the exploding popularity of craft beers maybe it’s time to try again!
  • President Theodore Roosevelt took more than 500 gallons of beer with him on an African safari. Must have been thirsty work. Bully!
  • A beer barrel contains 31 gallons of beer. What we Americans refer to as a keg is actually 15.5 gallons, or a half-barrel. Either way, we sing “Roll out the barrels!”
  • Hops were used as early as 400 BC in Babylon. Historians think that the reason it was used as additive was for its antiseptic properties. You see, by adding hops brewers didn’t have to have high alcohol content to prevent spoilage. This meant less grains and therefore more profit.
  • Beer is the second most popular beverage in the world, coming in behind tea. We know which beverage is more fun to drink!
  • In Japan, beer is sold in vending machines, by street vendors and in the train stations. Time to book a trip I say!
  • If you collect beer bottles you’re a labeorphilist.
  • A beer lover or enthusiast is called a cerevisaphile. I wonder where they come up with these names?

Now don’t you feel a bit more educated?

(Source: BeerFestBoots. Check them out. They make cool custom beer boot glasses )

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.

Hop Nation Brewery Opens in Downtown Yakima

20150403_164732_LLS_1Had a chance to swing by Hop Nation Brewing Company’s soft opening last week during the First Friday event in downtown Yakima. Pardon the pun, but things were hopping! Owner Ben and crew were serving  a nice crowd with the brews while HopTown Wood Fire Pizza was there baking up their 9″ pies of delight.

On tap was ESBeotch, EGO ipa, Cream On-oat pale ale and Weiss, a German Hefeweizen. Had a chance to try the Weiss and it delivered a smooth, mild wheat flavor you’d expect. Pints are $4.00 but when a train rumbles buy you get 50 cents off.20150403_164928_LLS_1

Also tried a slice of the HoppDaddyDo from HopTown pizza. With Italian sausage crumbles, pepperoni, Roma tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and their signature pinch of hops it delivered a spicy and tasty complement to the beer. Hop Town Pizza is serving their wood fired pizzas Wednesday-Saturday 4 p.m.- 8 p.m. in the old Track 29 parking lot for Hop Nation guests and walk ups (31 N. 1st Avenue. Look for the big wood fire oven and friendly staff).

Hop Nation Brewing Company hours: According to their Facebook page, hours are 3:30 to close Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 12-close Saturday and Sundays. Location: 31 N. 1st Avenue

Another gem in the downtown craft beverages along the Spirits and Hops Trail! See you there.

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News Along The Yakima Valley Spirits and Hops Trail

IMG951722As spring sprouts in the Yakima Valley new craft beverage products are also springing up along the Spirits and Hops Trail. Last week we stopped in to Bron Yr Aur Brewing Company outside Naches to check the progress of their brewery. As you can see, construction is moving at a fast pace and the Hattens told us that they’ll open in late March. Bron Yr. Aur (pronounced brawn-rah-err) means ‘Hills of Gold’ in Welsh. At the family ran Naches Mercantile next door they currently serve ten regional craft beers. They also serve home-made pizzas and their crust is amazing!

Meanwhile, Hop Nation Brewing Company is brewing up their beers and is slated to open in Downtown Yakima soon at 31 N. 1st Avenue right near the railroad tracks. In addition to a tasting room, this brewery will have hop, beer and wine analytical laboratory testing. Once Hop Nation Brewing opens, a new addition to the scene  Hop Town Wood Fired Pizza is slated to to serve their lip smackin’ pizzas 5-6 evenings a week on site. Here’s an interesting tidbit on Hop Town Pizza: In honor of her hop farming parents Lester and Emma Roy, daughter Lori and staff sprinkle a small amount of Cascade hops on every pizza. The Roys are credited with being pioneers in the growing of the Cascade hop strain.

Yakima Hop Candy 1And here’s a tasty spring treat…have you tasted the new lollihops by Yakima Hop Candy? These are the funnest things to have come along in some time! Their lollihops are infused with local hops and come in such flavors as passion fruit, blood orange, lemon and mango. Heather with Yakima Hop Candy told us that more candy delights are in the works so stay tuned for those updates. They’re candy is available at our Information Center near the Target store in Yakima or click here for other outlets.

So have a great spring, enjoy locally crafted beverages, pizza and candy and we’ll see you along the trail!

Yakima Valley Heads to Seattle Food & Wine Experience

swfeThe  Seattle  Wine  and  Food  Experience is this Sunday and the Yakima Valley will be there in force! In addition to a number of local wineries and other beverage providers, Yakima Valley Tourism is a Gold Sponsor and will host a double booth full of locally crafted bites and beverages.

Our prime sponsor to attend the show is Tree Top. As a result, we’re bringing Chef Kristin Johnson over to serve up tasty morsels using Tree Top products including honey crisp glazed vanilla peach palmiers, BBQ Chipotle cherry apple compote tarts, three apple Glacier Basin Cherry Brandy spritzer and a Chukar Cherry tart fruit smoothie chocolate. Like YUM!

On the beverage side we’ll pair these delights with a Syrah from Gilbert Cellars, a Viognier from AntoLin Cellars, an apricot hard cider from Tieton Cider Works and Bale Baker Brewery Topcutter IPA.

“This is a great way for folks in Seattle to taste what we grow here in the Valley,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism. “We’re excited to be at this show.”

General  Admission  tickets  are  $55 and  available  at http://www.seattlewineandfoodexperience.com. Must be 21 and over to attend. Hope to see you there!

Cowiche Canyon Kitchen & Icehouse Serve It Up!

Cowiche Canyon Kitchen Yakima WAWhen the Cowiche Canyon Kitchen and Icehouse Bar opened in December, it ushered in a new era of dining experiences in Downtown Yakima. Graham & Kaulin Snyder are owners of the new dining establishment. Snyder accomplished his idea of creating the ambiance of a “polished American Tavern” with help from Graham Baba, a Seattle-based architect firm. The firm is known for their attention to detail and designing buildings that allow opportunities for local design, construction and craftsmanship. Snyder envisioned that the design, food and service of the restaurant would reflect Yakima’s agriculture. “The building design is inspired by fruit warehouses and the topography of the Pacific Northwest,” states Snyder.

The theme of a “polished American tavern” is carried out in both the exterior and interior of the building. The outside of the restaurant has concrete “boards” that resemble the rustic look of wood that is visible throughout construction process. The interior is surrounded in booth seating and an open kitchen. Customers experience the excitement of watching the preparation and presentation of what they ordered and a view of downtown Yakima while they enjoy their meal. The main dining room can seat up to 130 people and the space is used thoughtfully, providing hooks on the outside of booths and under the bar for coats, purses and scarves.

The Icehouse Bar (reminiscent of a modernized fruit warehouse) is meant to have a similar look to fruit cold storage rooms built in the past. The interior features blocks of “ice” that are actually hanging simulated light fixtures.

While choosing contractors, suppliers and other miscellaneous items for the restaurant, Snyder was conscientious in supporting the Yakima Valley by using local craftsman contractors and recycled materials. The material for the hostess station was made out of old wood from a local hop warehouse, while the greenhouse flooring came from bricks salvaged from the old Terrace Heights elementary school. Light fixtures in the Icehouse came from old smudge pots used to prevent frost in local orchards.

The restaurant’s menu reflects Yakima’s farm fresh bounty. Snyder describes some of the dishes as “thoughtful renditions of American Classics.” He continues to carry on the family tradition of having their own bakery area, as his grandfather owned the local Snyder’s bakery from the Great Depression era until the 1980’s. Whole roasted chickens, prime rib and chicken pot pie are a few of the unique meals offered. The Icehouse Bar cocktails are made with freshly squeezed juices and herbs that are home grown inside the restaurant’s greenhouse. The Bar is dedicated to offering unique spirits not easily found at other locations, local distillers, and some small labels from Europe, Japan and South America. Three beer tap handles have also been dedicated to experimental blends from Haas Hops.

Snyder was born in Yakima but grew up in Southern Idaho and graduated with a degree in social sciences from the University of Southern California. Prior to owning the Cowiche Kitchen and Icehouse Bar, he owned the Osteria La Buca restaurant, in Hollywood.

Next time you’re in town check it out, plus try the other dining and craft beverage options available in Downtown Yakima.

Details: Located at 202 East Yakima Avenue Yakima, WA. . Open Sunday-Thursday 11am-10pm, Friday & Saturday 11am-11pm. Icehouse Bar hours: Sunday-Wednesday 11am-11pm, Thursday-Saturday 11am – 12am. 509-457-2007

2014 Was The Largest Hop Crop in Past Five Years

HOPS 2Hoppy days are here again!

According to an article in Saturday’s Yakima Herald, in 2014 U.S. hop growers produced their largest crop in five years. Even so, they could not keep up with the international demand for craft beer.

Last year featured a 10% increase in acreage but low yields and high prices, according to statistics released last week by the Hop Growers of America.

Rising prices and crop size have been driven by the growth in craft beers, which need more hops and a range of flavors. Washington state’s Yakima Valley produces about 77 percent of the nation’s hops.

Check out the full article here. Here’s to another banner year!

Holiday Gifts from the Spirits and Hops Trail

ciderIt’s down to the wire, the final days of the year. Scrambling for that special gift or special beverages to ring in the New Year? Try some products from the Spirits and Hops Trail.

First off you might want to visit any number of our wineries for your holiday dinner wine or as a gift. Many of the wineries also have a range of wine related gifts including novelty cork screws, wine glasses, coasters and more. Everyone wants a little bubbly for New Years so consider some Treveri sparking wine to ring in 2015. Our choice would be the rose’ but really, you can’t go wrong with any bubly! A fun alternative for New Years Eve is a hard cider or two. Popular choices include the cherry or apricot ciders from Tieton Cider Works in Yakima. Or try their Gingerbread Holiday Cider, a limited release only available at their tasting room. It’s filled with nutmeg, ginger, and hints of vanilla.

Then again, a hearty beer might be in order to chase away the cold of a winter night. In that case consider Twin Stag from Yakima Craft Brewing Company, a Scottish Ale ‘…perfect as a complement to good conversation and long, bold tales.’ If you’re throwing a grand New Years party consider getting a keg of High Camp Winter Warmer from Bale Breaker Brewing Company near Moxee. This seasonal brew is named for the ski lodge on top of the White Pass Ski Resort. And while Glacier Basin Distillery does not appear to have any special events at the Ranch this time of year, you can always find their fine distilled products at various local outlets and restaurants.

From all of us along the Spirits and Hops Trail in Yakima & the Yakima Valley we wish you a joyous and safe holiday season. Remember, enjoy responsibly!