More than 300 days of sunshine sound good right about now. That’s the regular weather pattern in Yakima, a thriving agricultural community in the heart of Washington State that has grown into a craft beverage boomtown.
Washington wine started here, with over 17,000 acres of vines and the title as the state’s first sub-appellation. Multigenerational hop-growing bloodlines pump through the celebrated fields, next to apple orchards that supply juice for moonshine and the largest selection of cider apples on the West Coast.
This history, prestige and breadth amounts to an extraordinarily tour-able area, ripe for craft beverage lovers to explore and uncover a farm to glass experience. Visitors can meet the makers of their favorite drinks, tour vineyards, hop fields, tasting rooms and more — all just two hours from Seattle.
Tasters might start at Gilbert Cellars, a family-run winery that has been farming in Yakima since 1897. Today’s generation can be found at their downtown Yakima tasting room or the winery at the Hackett Ranch, where guests can take in a summer concert, wine in hand. Another family-run estate, Wilridge Winery, is Seattle’s oldest continuously running winery that planted an estate vineyard on Naches Heights in 2007 and pours there, amid vines, orchards and sageland bluffs. Wilridge shares a picturesque cottage tasting room with Naches Heights Vineyard, who grows grapes sustainably, organically and biodynamically. When in downtown, visit the contemporary AntoLin Cellars for estate-grown, award-winning wines then skip over to Kana Winery to enjoy its Rhône-style blends and hang around with a glass during the weekday happy hour or groove to live music every Friday and Saturday.
Wine is far from the only shining star in Yakima Valley. The area is synonymous with hops; Yakima Valley is acknowledged as one of the most productive hop-growing regions in the world, responsible for roughly 80 percent of North America’s hops each year.
Breathe in those hops at Bale Breaker Brewing Co., owned by a multigenerational hop-farming family that has farmed the crop in eastern Yakima Valley since Prohibition. Today their hop fields surround the production brewery and taproom, popular for hop-forward pints and yard games. To the west, in the tiny town of Naches, Bron Yr Aur Brewing Co. was established by one of the area’s first families, and brings a bit of Welsh tradition to the hillsides with a taproom and restaurant zeroed in on handcrafted brews and pizzas. Over a ridge to the south, the owners of Cowiche Creek Brewing Co. welcome guests into their “Home 40” Taproom, where you can sip brews and picnic on the concert terrace.
On the way back to Yakima proper, discover the lauded ales of Yakima Craft Brewing Co. by way of a 20-ounce imperial pint in the taproom and peak into the brewery that makes it all happen. Let the pub crawl commence back in downtown, starting with Hop Nation Brewing Co., a brewpub focused on using Yakima Valley hops and Columbia Valley grain to produce the young brewery’s praised beers. One block east, nanobrewery Berchman’s Brewing Co. pours naturally conditioned, unfiltered beer made with artesian water and Yakima Valley Hops. And a stone’s throw from there lies Redifer Brewing Co., set to open this spring, bringing yet another stop to this craft beverage paradise.
Feeling adventurous? Sip some cider, the United States’ fastest growing beverage, at Tieton Cider Works, one of the state’s oldest cideries and apple growers. The Cider Bar sports a sun-soaked patio and bocce ball court to pair with a variety of ciders. Need something a bit stronger? Call to schedule a time to visit Yakima’s only craft distillery, and taste the fruit-infused spirits from Swede Hill Distilling.
Yakima’s roots are deep and the future is ripe for exploration. Experience the craft beverage Mecca of the Yakima Valley — start planning your trip today at craftbeverageyakima.com.