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!

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!

 

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.

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)

Roots and Vines Fest Comes to Downtown Yakima

Lil' SmokiesLookin’ to cook up some fun this weekend? Here’s a recipe for you: Take eight hours of non-stop bluegrass, roots and Americana music. Then add 12 Yakima area craft beverage providers and local food vendors.  Combine with fine weather and you have a the makings for toe tappin’ and dancin’ on the streets.

The first Roots and Vines Fest takes over Downtown Yakima’s Historic Front Street Saturday, May 16th, from 2:00 p.m. to 10 p.m. In that time you’ll hear some fine picking from 10 regional and national bands including Sleepy Man, The Lil’ SmokiesFruition and Hillstomp. We’re excited to see our local Yakima friends from the Spirits and Hops Trail pouring their wines, beers, ciders and distilled products. For food options include G.G. & B’s Designer Hot Dogs, Carousel French Cuisine, Rusillo’s Pizza and Tazzah Mediterranean.

And while the fest is for 21 and older, there’s a family viewing area located left of the main stage at North Town Coffee.  For details check the FAQ site and be sure to bring smiles and sun screen!

Want a taste of what you’re in for? Check this video by Hillstomp of their song “Don’t Come Down”. See ya Saturday!

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.

20150403_172717-1_1

20150403_170524_1

 

 

 

Rambling Route Cider Launches Friday

Xjty-Rtp_400x400Tieton Cider Works has announced the launch of a new canned hard cider product called Rambling Route. According to their release, “This cider is bold and has a crisp flavor just like biting into a Washington State grown apple.”  This is the newest craft cider product by Tieton Cider Works, where they utilize only farm grown apples from Craig and Sharon Campbell’s Harmony Orchards in Tieton, WA.

The Rambling Route Story:
The apple’s journey to America was parallel to man’s. The boat landed and the exploration began. In this vast new land the choices for thriving were endless. Some were happy to live on the coast where they landed, spreading out and staying diverse. Others were content to live amongst a few or be a solo tree in a town square. A few made it halfway across the land and settled in. The fearless joined the westward migration on horses and wagons, traveling thousands of miles looking for the perfect dirt, long sunny days and ample water. When it reached the land that would be called Washington, the apple knew. It was home at the end of a Rambling Route.

Rambling Route is a celebration of the apples arrival at Plymouth Rock during colonial times and its migration to the Yakima Valley in Washington.

To celebrate the launch of this new, exciting cider, Tieton Cider Works is having a launch party 5:00 p.m. Friday March 27th at their “Cider Bar.” Festivities include live R&B and Blues music by Wayman Chapman, food by Imogene’s, a popular Yakima food vendor, raffle, prizes and of course tasting this new adventurous cider. There will be a Cidery tour offered at 5:00pm, music and food starts at 6:00pm.

The Tieton Cider Works Cider Bar is located at 619 West J Street in Yakima (off 16th Avenue) next to Elks Park.

Come enjoy the Pride of the (509)!

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!