When it comes to fresh hop beer, it doesn’t get any fresher than Bale Breaker Brewing Co. in Yakima, Washington. For sibling-owners Kevin “Smitty” Smith, Meghann Quinn and Patrick Smith, growing hops has been the backbone of their family for generations. Bale Breaker’s brewery and taproom is surrounded by hops, uniquely located on the corner of Field 41, and the brewery prides itself on utilizing their own family grown hops for their beer, making them truly fresh off the farm. With Bale Breaker making plans to take things one step further to create a truly estate-grown beer, we sat down to chat with Kevin, the team’s brewmaster, about what’s next for this ever-growing Central Washington brewery.
1) What’s behind the name Bale Breaker?
Since 1932, our family hop farm has been sending bales of hops around the world for others to use when brewing their beer. When we decided on starting the brewery in 2012, we realized it was our turn to break the bales ourselves and share our expression of beer, honoring the hop aromas we grew up loving.
2) Yakima consistently has new breweries popping up, but you’ve been around quite a few years and consistently growing. What’s the key to staying relevant in hop country?
The key to relevancy for us combines a few different tactics. First, we always remain focused on improving the quality and consistency of our core beers. Second, we can never be afraid of embracing the innovation in the beer industry, whether it’s hazy IPAs, barrel-aged beers, sours or lagers.
Even though this brewery was built on the back of West Coast IPA, innovation is key to relevancy in this market. Last, we try to provide consumers with the best experience possible when they make it out to Yakima and Field 41 for a beer.
3) What fresh off the farm practices is Bale Breaker working on next?
We have planted a field of barley a short drive south from our brewery. Our hope is to be able to provide a year-round estate beer — all ingredients grown by ourselves — in cans. However, this is our first year growing barley, so let’s keep our fingers crossed that it meets our standards of quality for brewing.
4) Tell us a bit more about your limited release Mango IPA. Who’s involved in the partnership, and why is it so important?
Sesiones del Migrante Mango IPA is a fun collaboration that we helped put together with Yakima Chief Hops, Cervecería de Colima [in Colima, Mexico], Cerveza Loba [Guadalajara, Mexico], SouthNorte Brewing Co. (San Diego) and Ronin Fermentation Project (Truckee, California). The project celebrates and benefits the migrant workers that come up from Mexico and work to harvest hops in the Yakima Valley that are shipped to breweries around the world.
It is really important to Bale Breaker because of our hop farm. We know these migrant laborers are an often-forgotten piece in the supply chain of beer. We wanted to inform fellow brewers and consumers of these important members of the beer community.