2013 Was The Year For Yakima Valley Hops, Breweries, Distilleries and Wine

New-Years-decorThis has been a great year for the Yakima Valley adult beverage industry. Highlights included:

1. The opening of Bale Breaker Brewering Company, the first and only known brewery in American located in a working hop field! Also new to the scene was Glacier Basin Distillery, which has great plans for their emerging operations at the Gilbert Orchards’ Hackett Ranch.

2. John I. Haas opened its 23,500-square-foot building in August, which includes, a new testing brewery where craft breweries could make beers made with different types of hops. The company’s executives said they built the facility to better respond to the growing craft brewing industry.

3. The launch of our humble yet dedicated Spirits and Hops Trail website (thank you for your support).

4. The October Fresh Hop Ale Festival was the biggest in its 11-year-history. The event took up the entire parking lot near Millennium Plaza and attracted a record 5,000 attendees.

5. Tieton Cider Works continues to grow and flourish and received a lot of publicity in 2013. Check the features and videos on their website.

6. In the wine world, 2013 marked the 30th year since the Yakima Valley became the first American Viticultural Area (AVA) in the Pacific Northwest. Wine Yakima Valley celebrated the occasion with many events and educational programs.

So as New Year’s eve approaches we toast your success, wish all of you the best in 2014 and thank you for all you do for the Yakima Valley. Cheers!

These are heady days for Yakima Valley craft brewers

Yakima Herald‘s business reporter Mai Hoang recently penned a column on the state of the brewery and hops industry in the Yakima Valley, claiming that “…2013 was the year that craft beer gained major traction in a region long known for wine.” We could not agree any more with that!

She offered the following to support that claim:

• In July, the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau launched a new website  for the Yakima Valley Spirits and Hops Trail, which highlights the Yakima Valley’s breweries and other specialty alcohol products. Bureau CEO John Cooper said the craft brewing industry reached a critical mass that made the site necessary.

• John I. Haas opened its new 23,500-square-foot building in August, which includes, among other things, a new testing brewery where craft breweries could make beers made with different types of hops. The company’s executives said they built the facility to better respond to the growing craft brewing industry.

• The Fresh Hop Ale Festival, the annual fundraiser for Allied Arts of Yakima Valley, was the biggest in its 11-year-history in October. The event took up the entire parking lot near Millennium Plaza and attracted a record 5,000 attendees.

• Finally, she thinks Yakima Valley now has a mix of craft breweries that would have made Bert Grant (beloved Yakima area craft beer pioneer) proud. Snipes Mountain Brewing Co. in Sunnyside continues to produce beers that show up all over the state. Yakima Craft Brewing Co., which, when it opened in 2008, was the sole brewery within the immediate Yakima area, celebrated five years this year and now seems more like a veteran compared to the slew of breweries popping up nationwide.

Take a look at the full story here.

Alexander Graham Bell, Hops and the Yakima Valley

john_baule_largeThe creation of the Yakima Valley Spirits and Hops Trail reminded me of the Yakima Valley’s connection with Gardiner Greene Hubbard, the founding president of the National Geographic Society and President of the American Telegraph Company, and his son-in-law, Alexander Graham Bell, who is credited with the successful introduction of the telephone.  Like other investors in the 1880s, Hubbard and Bell saw the Yakima Valley as a new frontier, having just been linked by railroad to markets in the Eastern United States.  In 1884, they established the Moxee Company on land purchased just east of present-day Yakima.  Their intent was to create a model agricultural operation that would attract families to move into the Valley and produce commercially viable crops.  By 1888, the company was raising cattle and had 1,000 acres under cultivation, including 140 acres of barley, 35 acres of hops, 30 acres of wheat, 35 acres of corn, 50 acres of oats, 240 acres of alfalfa, 78 acres in timothy hay, and 25 acres in tobacco.  Hops, tobacco, and sugar beets became the most successful crops.

Tobacco growers from Kentucky were recruited to develop a locally grown leaf that could be hand-rolled into locally-produced cigars; but the combination of disease in the form of a leaf blight and the inexperience of Kentucky farmers in growing irrigated tobacco ended this crop in the Valley.  Sugar beets suffered a similar fate, first through a blight in the period 1910-1920 and then through better production elsewhere in the country.  However, hops have survived, perhaps because the Moxee Company is responsible for encouraging French-Canadian families living in northern Minnesota to move west to the Yakima Valley.  Thirteen families, consisting of 52 individuals, came in 1897, and another wave in 1902.  These families—Gamache, Champoux, Brulotte, LaFramboise, LaBissonaire, Regimbal, Desmarais, Desserault, Beaulaurier, Belair, Morrier, Sauve, Fourtier, Riel, Houle, Patnode, and others—became the core of the Yakima Valley’s hop industry by the 1910s.

Like all industries, however, there have been good and bad times for hops.  One of the more interesting periods was when there was an enormous scare caused by the passage of the Volstead Act in 1919.  The Act prohibited the manufacturing, sale, or transportation of beer and other intoxicating liquors in the United States.  Local bankers, upon whom hop ranchers depended for financing, assumed the brewing industry was dead and refused to lend money.  They would not advance farmers the cash needed to hire labor to pick their crop in the Fall of 1919.  But those farmers who were able to harvest and store their crop were able to cash in on the brand-new demand for hops—the home-brewing industry.  By the early 1920s, hop growers were getting some of the highest returns that they had ever received to date—proving the Volstead Act was not the death blow bankers had projected.  Furthermore, blight in the 1930s on the hops grown on the western side of the Cascades near Puyallup eliminated regional competition.  By this time, however, the Moxee Company had sold most of its holdings to the individual farmer and eventually discontinued business entirely.  However, without the impetus of Gardiner Hubbard and Alexander Graham Bell, it might have taken the hop industry in the Yakima Valley much longer to become established and such an important part of the local economy.

John Baule, Director, Yakima Valley Museum

Website Dedicated to Local Yakima Valley Products Launched

yvMadeScreenShotHomeThe Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau (VCB) has launched a new program just in time for holiday shopping. Yakima Valley Made is a website that provides the public a directory of more than 100 Yakima Valley based farm products, hand crafted consumer goods and local food or beverage products. “With the rise of so many hand crafted artisan goods we saw a need to develop a central source for those products,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO of the VCB. “The site is a work in progress as vendors and locally crafted products are identified and added to the website.”

A number of the products listed on the website are available at the Yakima Valley Visitors Information Center at 101 N. Fair Avenue in Yakima. To view the site visit www.yakimavalleymade.com. Yakima Valley businesses producing locally grown or made items sold directly to consumers that want to be on the website should contact Laura Rodriquez at laura@visityakima.com

Funding for the project came through a grant from HUD Office of University Partnership at Heritage University with technical assistance provided by Yakima County Development Association/New Vision.

Yakima Valley Spirits, Brewery and Wineries featured in Sunset

Grab the November issue of Sunset magazine for some fun reading on the Yakima Valley, including a number of the features along the Spirits and Hops Trail like Bale Breaker Brewing Company and Glacier Basin Distillery.

The opening heading says it all:  “Why You’ll Love the Yakima Valley in Washington: Taste wine on a mountaintop, tour a Prohibition-era hop farm, and eat tacos with the locals in eastern Washington’s agricultural wonderland.”

Read the article for yourself here.

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.

Getting the Love from Lonely Planet and Sunset Magazine

Lonley_planet_logoLast week Lonely Planet online posted a piece called “Exploring Washington’s Yakima Valley one beverage at a time.” We could not agree more! There are so many options now in the Valley, from ciders to wines.

Meanwhile, in the August issue of Sunset magazine the Valley was part of a road trip getaway story called “Northwest road trip: The ale and wine trail”.

sunset-cover-aug13-mOthers have written some great things about Yakima Valley adult beverages so check out this site for recent features. One of our favorites is the On the Hop Trail story penned by Yakima native Jackie Smith.

See you along the trail soon!

Case of the Blues and All That Jazz

https://i1.wp.com/yakimagreenway.org/blues/2013/COTB-logo.png“Summertime and the livin is easy,” as the Gershwin song goes. What better way to enjoy this easy going season than a warm evening under the stars along Yakima’s famed greenway?

A Case of the Blues and All That Jazz is a blues and jazz festival benefiting the community through the Yakima Greenway Foundation and Junior League of Yakima. Held each August since 1993 in Sarg Hubbard Park, the festival features blues and jazz music, award-winning local wines, microbrews, spirits, delicious food and a silent auction.

This year the festivities are Saturday, August 17th 4-11 P.M. and the line up of music has never been better. Tickets are $40 in advance and $45 at the door. See you there!

Craft Beers and Ciders at Wineries? Why not!

tieton-3There’s an old saying in the wine industry that it takes a lot of good beer to make great wine. Whether or not that is true, more Yakima Valley wineries are adding local craft beers and ciders to their offerings. It’s a welcome addition on these warm summer days here in Washington wine country.

Here are a few local wineries that have these cool frothy offerings and other adult beverages*:

GILBERT CELLARS in downtown Yakima: Last Friday I stopped by for some live music at Gilbert and was pleased to see they had ciders  from Tieton Cider Works and cold cans of Bale Breaker Brewing Company beer. Last May they hosted the debut of Glacier Basin Distillery brandy at their Cave operation, so maybe more will be in store with them at future Gilbert Cellars events.

NACHES HEIGHTS VINEYARDS  alternates between two local breweries at this time: Bale Breaker and Yakima Craft Brewing Company beers.

TASTING ROOM YAKIMA in Naches Heights is proudly serving Tieton Cider Works, Bale Breaker and Yakima Craft products.

MOJAVE at Desert Wind Winery in Prosser features local crafted beers.

So come visit us along the Spirits and Hops Trail and enjoy some wine, beer and cider!

If you come across any other Yakima Valley wineries that are regularly serving local craft beverages, let us know! We’ll add them to this blog. Email to info@visityakima.com

*Naturally the selection and offerings are subject to change, so check with the winery for updates. Enjoy!

Welcome to the Spirits & Hops Trail

BLOGGER: John Cooper, President & CEO

I’m excited to introduce you to our new website and marketing effort, the Spirits and Hops Trail.

So why did we create the site? The easy answer is why not? We have lots to brag about when it comes to adult beverages. Of course everyone knows the Valley is a top destination in Washington state for wine production and wineries. The Yakima Valley American Viticulture Area (AVA) is now 30 years old, we have more than 100 wineries open to the public and we produce nearly half of the wine grapes in the state. What folks may not know is that the Yakima Valley is the powerhouse in the hops world and an emerging destination for craft beers, cider and distilled beverages.

As for hops, think about this. No matter where you order a beer in the U.S., whether locally brewed or one of the big brands, there’s a 78% chance that the hops used for that frothy brew came from the Yakima Valley. Staggering but true. Our Valley is the second largest producer of hops IN THE WORLD, just behind Germany. Now there’s bragging rights!

So we developed this effort to let you know of the bounty we have here stemming from the hop industry, locally crafted ciders, beers and distilled drinks. The website and blog are also great ways for us to share the stories of the people and businesses that bring you these great products and share the latest ‘news and brews’. I invite you to come over to the Yakima Valley and join in the fun. Cheers!

Yakima Valley Tourism
10 N 8th Street
Yakima, WA 98901
509-575-3010
800-221-0751
info@visityakima.com