Thank you for saving the beer.

The Yakima Valley has made it through yet another hop harvest.  Gone are the lush green walls of hops, stretching 18 feet in the air.  In their place is a forest of bare hop poles, pieces of cut twine still dangling from the wires.  Now our Valley’s  hops take the next stage of their journey, where they’ll be preened, pressed, pounded and processed into dry hop pellets for brewing in the coming year, while a small amount of still wet, fresh-picked hops are packed off to breweries to make their one-of-a-kind Fresh Hop beers.

HARVESTINGEven though it looks the same as it always does after a successful harvest season, it doesn’t tell the real story: that this was definitely not just another hop harvest.

Growers throughout the world struggled this year.  Germany experienced their worst hop harvest in over a decade, down 27 percent from last year.  Britain was below their average.  New Zealand was short.  And here at home, the Yakima Valley went through one of the most difficult growing seasons in recent memory.  We faced three straight weeks of triple-digit temperatures.  We had a non-existent snowpack, leaving our Valley strangled by drought.  And we continue to have a stunted labor force, which extends harvest times, creating more work for less people.

But despite these challenges, our growers prevailed.  The 2015 harvest is on par to outstrip last year’s bounty by a solid five percent.  The overall yield of hops is actually down from last year, but there was more than 3,300 new acres of hops planted this year in Washington, which more than made up for the decline.

DRIED HOPS 2The resilience and tenacity of our farmers has done our Valley proud once again, and everyone from growers to brewers to beer-lovers can breathe a sigh of relief that this difficult harvest is successfully behind us.

So to our hardworking Yakima Valley hop farmers and laborers, we offer a sincere and heartfelt “Thank You” for all that you’ve done this year.  If there’s ever anyone who has deserved a beer after a long day’s work, it’s you.

Cheers!

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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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Beer Geeks TV In Town This Week

bgtv550The popular cable show Beer Geeks was in town this week filming our wonderful hop fields and the harvest. According to the producer David Page, the footage will be part of a segment on Northwest based breweries. As David told us, they’ll be telling the story of the Yakima Valley hops and it’s importance to the beer industry. We’ll keep you posted on when the segment will air.

In the meantime, here’s to enjoying Yakima Valley hops in all the craft beers you enjoy! Come enjoy the harvest by visiting 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.

 

Bale Breaker Craft Beer Comes to Western Washington

Bale Breaker beer cans and kegs ready for their frothy brew!People on the west side of the state will soon get a taste of a Yakima Valley brewery. Bale Breaker beer will be sold in King and Snohomish Counties.

The company sent its first shipment to distributors this week. That’s 90 kegs and 1,000 cases of beer. It’ll be sold at Trader Joe’s, select QFCs, and Total Wine and More.

Bale Breaker’s owners said they’re happy to expand.

“We do have a lot of pent-up demand, and it’s good to hear people asking for our beer over there, so we’re glad we’ll finally be able to start sending some beer over there,” said co-owner Kevin Quinn.

Taps will also be available at Seattle Mariners home games. Bale Breaker said it’s looking to distribute elsewhere depending on sales in King and Snohomish Counties.

Click here for the video story from  KIMA news

U.S. Hop Production Up 13 Percent in 2013

This blog is a reprint of an article by Capital Press, posted with their permission.

YAKIMA, Wash. — U.S. hop production was up 13 percent from 61.2 million pounds in 2012 to 69.3 million pounds in 2013, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The crop was valued at $249 million, up 28 percent from a revised 2012 value of $195 million, according to a Dec. 23 NASS report. The average price per pound was $3.59 up from $3.18 a year ago and $3.14 two years ago.

All of this shows the industry, centered in Washington’s Yakima Valley, is doing very well and probably will be for the next two to three years, said Pete Mahony, director of supply chain management and purchasing for John I. Haas Inc., Yakima, a leader in hop processing, research and development. Oil in the hop cone or flower is used for flavoring and stabilizing beer.

Expansion of small, craft breweries is driving the hop increase, Mahony said. Craft breweries continue to increase in number and size, he said. Craft brewers make up only 7 to 8 percent of the brewing industry but have a 15 percent annual growth. Large brewers comprise the bulk of the industry but average 1 to 2 percent annual growth, he said.

Haas opened a new multi-million dollar center for hop research and development in Yakima in June. It includes a research brewery.

Of the national production, 79.2 percent (54.9 million pounds) comes from the Yakima Valley — mostly from farms around Moxee, Prosser and Toppenish. Climate, soil and length of sunlight hours were factors in the Yakima Valley becoming the premier hop growing region in the U.S., Mahony said.

Another 12.3 percent (8.5 million pounds) is from Oregon’s Willamette Valley between Salem and Woodburn, and the remaining 8.5 percent (5.8 million pounds) is from the Caldwell, Idaho, area.

Acres harvested in 2013 were: 27,062 for Washington; 4,786 for Oregon; and 3,376 for Idaho, for a U.S. total of 35,224. Those figures were up slightly from a June 1 forecast.

Idaho is growing more rapidly in production and acreage than Washington and Oregon. That’s because Idaho has more acreage readily available for expansion while acreage is getting tighter in Washington and Oregon, Mahony said.

Washington will have to expand hop picking and drying facilities in a couple of years to keep increasing acreage, he said. Oregon growers deal with more downey mildew because of the wetter Willamette climate but some varieties grow better there, Mahony said.

Prices are stronger in Washington and Oregon at $3.68 per pound versus $2.64 per pound in Idaho. That’s because Washington and Oregon have more of the expensive aroma varieties for flavoring and Idaho has more alpha varieties for bitterness, Mahony said.

Harvested hops can be stored three to five years depending on whether it is stored in pellets, extract or further refinements of extract, he said.

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