Yakima Is Becoming the Craft Beverage Center of the Northwest

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Tieton Cider Works celebrates their grand opening of their cider bar November 1st

Last Saturday, Tieton Cider Works had their grand opening for their new 35,000 square foot production facility and Cider Bar at  619 West J Street. With that celebration another craft beverage operation comes to Yakima. It joins four existing wineries (AntoLin Cellars,  Gilbert Cellars, Kana Winery and Lookout Point Winery) and two breweries (Yakima Craft Brewing Company, which has two tap rooms, and Berchman’s Brewing Company, which has begun brewing in West Valley just this week. Though not in Yakima, let’s also give a nod to nearby Bale Breaker Brewery). There’s also three distilleries in Yakima or close by (Swede Hill Distillery, Glacier Basin Distillery and Scenic Acres Orchard) plus the bars, pubs and eateries that offer locally crafted adult beverages.  And it doesn’t appear to be ending there. Sources tell me that other breweries and wineries are in the works for Downtown and beyond. That’s great news.

In a way Yakima is coming full circle. It was the birthplace of the modern day microbrewery/pub scene when Bert Grant opened the first post-prohibition microbrewery in 1982. Sadly Grants Brewery Pub closed down some years later and it was not until 2007 that Yakima saw another brewery open when Yakima Craft began operations. It’s only natural that the brewpub scene  would come back to Yakima. Our region grows some 75% or more of the hops in America, and much of it is processed in the City of Yakima. Likewise, with the vast quantities of wine grape and fruit production the Yakima Valley it’s fitting that more wineries and distilleries are popping up around town.

These are among the reasons why we created the Spirits and Hops Trail in the summer of 2013. The site celebrates our agricultural heritage through the craft beverages that make Yakima and the Yakima Valley special. Another goal of the Spirits and Hops Trail is to help the craft beverage industry to grow and prosper through marketing and media relations. In the coming months the website and related projects will expand to include additional features about our craft beverages, festivals that celebrate and promote them plus the people behind the scenes making it happen. As always we’ll keep you posted on new developments in the beverage scene in Yakima and beyond.

In the meantime, enjoy this Evening Magazine TV segment on Tieton Cider Works.

John Cooper

Yakima Valley Tourism

 

 

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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