Northwest Beer Guide: Washington Beer Guide: Yakima: Visiting the Yakima Valley during the Fresh Hop Ale Festival

By definition a destination is "the place to which someone or something is going or being sent." or "being a place that people will make a special trip to visit." 

Regardless of your definition, there will always be travel and the necessity to invest time in nearby attractions. Let's face it, no one ever visits one attraction and then hails a cab back to the airport.Destinations are the beacons to the start of a vacation. The vacation can be as wavering as a trip to the nearest "Top 25" bar or as complex as whale watching in Australia. It's because of this that we - as supporters of great beer - recognize there is more to the destination than just great beer. 

Which is why we have taken the time to research (and partake) in a trip to some of craft beer's favorite destinations.

Yakima, WA, Pacific Northwest

"Known for its over 100 wineries and 13,000 acres of vineyards, the same excellent growing conditions in the Yakima Valley in Washington State produce 78% of the nation’s hops for breweries and world-renowned fruits for cideries and distilleries. Sip your favorite craft creations amongst the fields, vineyards and orchards where their ingredients are actually grown. Learn about the Valley’s volcanic soils, elaborate irrigation systems, heat units and other unique growing conditions straight from the craft product makers themselves when you visit museums, tasting facilities and local restaurants serving the Valley’s craft products." source,Yakima Valley Spirits & Hops Trail

As host to over 75% of the United States hop production, the Yakima Valley remains a resource for brewers both regional and international. On average each hop farmer manages and harvests approximately 450 acres (182 hectares) per year.
Within the Yakima Valley are three (3) trenchant growing areas, the Moxee Valley, the Yakima Indian Reservation, and the Lower Yakima Valley. Despite only being around 50 miles apart, each area hosts unique soil chemistry - used for different hop varieties.

The Lower Yakima Valley, with its slightly warmer climate, can produce outstanding yields during first year (baby) hop plantings. Many other crops grow in the lower Yakima Valley enabling growers to easily diversify. The Yakama Indian Reservation, located in the center of the Yakima Valley, is most noted for its vast open spaces and its ability to produce superior alpha levels. Hops yards in this area consist of large often square blocks of hops, each of which can be well over 80 acres. Because of the increased yields produced by the super alpha hop varieties, growers on "The Reservation", as it is commonly called by growers, are among the most efficient in the world. The Moxee Valley has a slightly cooler climate and is located in the northern part of the Yakima Valley. Due to its cooler temperatures, outstanding aroma crops are grown there. Another unique characteristic of the Moxee Valley is the extremely high density of hop yards. In fact, in the Moxee Valley it is almost impossible to avoid driving by a hop yard and all the main commercial varieties are produced there. (source, "Hop Growing in Washington ..., Hop Growers of America
Despite its large contribution to the United States' growing craft beer business, Yakima is rather anemic as it relates to quantity of breweries. But the anemia hasn't resulted in lower quality options - rather the breweries in operation produce some of the freshest India Pale Ales, given their proximity to the hop fields.

Celebrating hop growers and brewers in the valley (and beyond), the Fresh Hop Ale Festival is celebrated the first weekend in October.
Located in historic downtown Yakima, the festival hosts some 40+ brewers and over 9,000 thirsty fans. With the primary ingredient fresh-cut, non-dehydrated, hops, brewers infuse beer recipes like Pale Ale, India Pale ale, or Harvest ale. With the only requirement being the brewery bring one fresh-hopped beer, brewers will sometimes bring more readily available beers from Harvest Ale to Imperial Stout.

If you've never attended this festival and don't know where to eat, drink, visit, or stay - we have the guide for you.

Getting there

  • Supporting three (3) flights per day, McAllister Airfield, provides options for those traveling from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
  • Taking the Greyhound might be the best option.
  • Options are few but one can arrive in Yakima via state highway 12, state highway 821, state highway 823, state highway 97, or Interstate 82 Freeway.

Where to Stay

Using the average ratings of Expedia, Yelp, and the Better Business Bureau. There are the best places to stay both in overall satisfaction and location from downtown Yakima.

Where to Eat (e.g. restaurants, pubs, & fast food)

The following list is subject to change from year to year, but this is a list of suggested eateries for local food, based on personal experience or suggested by locals.

Yakima - Carousel Retaurant & Bistro

Carousel Flat Iron Skillet cooked Filet
  • French cuisine near heart of downtown Yakima. We enjoyed the hospitality of the Bistro. From their Escargot appetizer to their pan seared Porto Filet Mignon, there wasn't a glass of wine that didn't pair well with our meal.

    While your there, ask them about the local significance of the building.

    Carousel Restaurant & Bistro is located on Front Street at 25 N Front St (in Yakima, WA 98901).

Cooked to order Prime Rib Dip
  • Located a literal stones throw from the Fresh Hop Ale Fest or the Sunday Farmers Market, Cowiche Canyon focus on quality ingredients, craft beer, privately-owned wines, and a selection of cocktails. 

    During our visit we had the pleasure of enjoying Spring Rolls with Prawns, a made-to-order Prime Rib Dip, Hong Kong Chicken Chop Salad, and finished it off with their famous Stout Brownie served with a drizzle of caramel. 

    For a nightcap, head over to Cowiche Canyon's Icehouse bar, to enjoy a glass of local wine; local beer from Bale Breaker, Yakima Craft, Hop Nation (Rotating), or an uber-rare pint of Haas Experimental from the nearby hop broker. 

    Cowiche Canyon Kitchen + Icehouse is located on Yakima Avenue at 202 East Yakima Avenue (in Yakima, WA 98901).
Union Gap - Los Hernandez Tamales.

Los Hernandez Tamales - Pork or Chicken
  • On your way to Walla Walla wine country or a few exits south of the Fresh Hop Ale Festival lies a modest-looking treasure of the valley.

    Owned and operated by Felipe Hernandez, "Los Hernandez Tamales" is a destination in of itself. Known throughout the world, as the guestbook attests, the tamales served as unique as the owners. 

    Started in 1990, with a strong focus on 'from scratch' ingredients, the tamales consumed at this cinderblock building are made from fresh-ground masas, and traditionally wrapped in corn husks.

    Stop by on our way heading north or south and enjoy a pork or chicken tamale. We did.
  • If someone told you that they were going to start a business, named after a Robert Plant song, you might tell them they were nuts.
    But this is what 
    Mike and Annette Hatten did, when they renovated a fruit market along US Highway 12.
    Today the location at 12160 US HWY 12 is a bustling alehouse with traditional pub fare and pizza. Tomorrow (aka, the near future) the owners at Bron Yr Aur will open a brewery, located behind the current location of identically named alehouse.

    During our visit we sipped on Double Mountain Killer Red, Snipe's Fresh Hop from their "Buddy Board" menu.

    When it came to food we doubled-down on a half-dozen chicken wings, a taco salad, while finishing off with slices of their "The Italian", "Taco Pizza", "BBQ Pulled Pork", Big Kahuna", and "Veggie".

    Word of advice to those expecting to wash dishes, if they can't pay the bill. The staff and owners at Bron Yr Aur insist you eat off their foiled paper wrappers.

    Afterwards you are invited to ball up your paper plate, and toss it into the champagne pitcher, located behind the bar. Make the shot and you receive a personal pan pizza, good on your next visit.
More images can be found here.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Other notables include
  • Sunnyside - Snipes Mountain Restaurant & Brewery. 

    Started in 1997, this 16 barrel (32 kegs) brewery has produced award-winning beers and brewers. Look for around a dozen different beers, featured at their bar or in their restaurant.

    While you're taking in the smiles and tastes of a unique beer, check out their dine-in menu - featuring everything from a Buffalo Chicken Salad, Sicilian Pizza (or Calzone), to a Wood-Fired Filet of Salmon.

    Snipes Mountain Brewery & Restaurant is located on Yakima Valley Highway at 905 Yakima Valley Hwy (in Sunnyside, WA 98944)
  • Yakima - Miner's Burgers. Technically located in Union Gap, Dave Miner's opened his business in 1948 as a walk-up and takeaway eatery. As it was in 1948 the restaurant is known for its 'giant' burgers. The technique known as 'smash' was originally started in the 1920's, produces a burger with crispy (carmelized) crust. Using the technique also allows a restaurant minimize cooking prep. What started as a simplified burger-cooking technique, has inspired generations of locals to recall their first Miner Burger.

    Located at 2415 S 1st Street along Yakima's main arterial, today Miner's features an indoor restaurant as well as an attached park for summer sit-downs. Stop by today.

  • Union Gap - Peppermint Stick. Much like Miner's, opened in the 40's by providing something unique. Known for their Peppermint ice-cream cone, this burger stop rests 2 scoops of red-streaked, peppermint, ice cream on a memorable baked cone. If you're visiting the cone, then try their signature burger the Dave. The Dave is a "... thick, half-pound patty with all the trimmings, and like all their burgers, comes with the "special sauce that has been passed down through generations."
    Peppermint Stick Drive-in is located on Tieton Drive at 5110 Tieton Drive (in Yakima, Washington 98908)
  • Yakima - Waffles Cafe. If large portions are something you're looking, prior to or after a long night of drinking, then this is the place. With traditional menu items like Biscuits & Gravy, French Toast, Eggs Over-easy, and of course pancakes, the price and service cannot be beat.

    If you're up to the challenge you can attempt their Sasquatch, Iron Man, or bottomless Iron Man breakfasts. If you succeed in finishing an Iron Man, you get your name on the wall near the lobby.

    Waffles Cafe is located on 1st Street at 1510 N 1st Street (in Yakima, WA 98901)
Where to Drink

The following list is subject to change from year to year, but this is the list of suggested places to get a good beer or cocktail.

  • Cowiche Canyon Kitchen + Icehouse. 202 East Yakima Avenue, Yakima, WA 98901
  • Second Street Bar & Grill. 28 N 2nd St
  • The Beer Shoppe. 302 W. Yakima Avenue #107 Yakima, WA. 98902 
  • The Pub (formerly Bert's Pub). 5110 W Tieton Dr, Yakima, WA 98908
  • Yakima - Yakima Craft Taproom. 120 East Yakima Avenue, Yakima, WA 98901
  • Yakima - Yakima Craft Brewery + Taproom. 2920 River Rd #6, Yakima, WA 98902
  • Yakima - Bale Breaker Brewing Co. 1801 Birchfield Rd, Yakima, WA 98901
  • Sunnyside - Snipe's Mountain Restaurant & Brewery
  • Naches - Bron Yr Aur

  • Wapato - Owen Roe Winery. 309 Gangl Rd, Wapato, WA 98951. 
  • Yakima - Gilbert Cellars. 2620 Draper Rd, Yakima, WA 98903
  • Yakima - Naches Heights Vineyard Tasting Room. 250 Ehler Rd, Yakima, WA 98908
  • Yakima - Wildridge Winery & Vineyard. 250 Ehler Rd, Yakima, WA 98908
  • Wapato - Terveri Cellars. 71 Gangl Rd, Wapato, WA 98951

More images of wineries and vineyards can be found below.

Created with flickr slideshow.


Glacier Basin Distilling

  • Yakima - Glacier Basin Distillery. 2604 Draper Rd, Yakima, WA 98903. (Sat. Only)

Tieton Cider Works

  • Yakima - Tieton Cider Works. 619 W J St, Yakima, WA 98902

Created with flickr slideshow.

Other Yakima notables include Sports Center (214 E Yakima Avenue), McGuire's Irish Restaurant & Pub (4807 Tieton Drive),  Barrel House (22 N 1st Street)

*Removed from last year's list
Bert's Pub

What to See

Central Washington Agriculture Museum.

  • Nestled in Fullbright Park lies an engaging historical tour of America's agricultural past. From combines, to tractors, to typewriters, there are numerous artifacts to inspire visitors young and old. 

    But it isn't what the museum showcases, it's what the museum does. Through donations the museum only employs a handful of staff, while numerous (and eager) volunteers visit the museum, to assist in restoring everything you see on the grounds. 

    More on the museum

    In November 1978, the late Ted Falk shared his dream of preserving the agricultural heritage of the Yakima Valley and Central Washington and introduced the idea of a farm equipment museum to a small group of interested people.The dream became a reality the following year when the Central Washington Agricultural Museum was founded on March 15th, 1979, as a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization governed by a Board of Directors with a volunteer staff.The volunteer workforce was made up of knowledgeable people who worked with and restored the equipment on display as well as creating active demonstrations of how the equipment was used.The Museum had its first Membership Drive the fall of 2010. That same year they hired their first paid part-time Administrator with funds from a grant from the City of Union Gap.The dream continues but the focus has changed slightly as many of the members/volunteers are getting older. With great anticipation the new members/volunteers are stepping up to learn these new skills and will keep our Central Washington Agricultural History and Heritage going strong for generations to come.Since the formation of the Central Washington Agricultural Museum, the city council of Union Gap, Washington generously leased 15 acres in Fullbright Park, which is south of the city.  Here the museum is constructing semi-open buildings to house displays and exhibits of numerous items donated by farm families in the Yakima Valley and Central Washington.

    The Central Washington Agriculture Museum is located on Main Street at 4508 Main Street (in Union Gap, WA 98903).
Central Washington State Fair.
  • One would assume the city of Puyallup, which promotes its fair as the "Washington State Fair" is the real deal. But one would be deceived if they had only visited Puyallup. But it was in fact Yakima County, who in 1894, started the 1st "Washington State Fair"

    Nestled a few miles from Interstate-82 lays one of the oldest continually operating fairs in the state.

    What started as an exhibition from various communities, has matured into a campus for demonstrating agriculture, amusement, and competition.

    Since 1894, when the "Washington State Fair" was inaugurated, the caretakers of Yakima's (now Central Washington State Fair) have provided citizens and tourists an opportunity to observe livestock up close, review a Grange exhibit, compare quilting pattern, or ride in a one-of-a-kind chairlift - all while enjoying fair food and traditional beverages.

    Despite being over 100 years old, the fairgrounds themselves haven't been the victim of progress. In fact the Administrators of the "Central Washington Fair" have provided people with an affordable entrance fee, coupled with inexpensive entertainment - provided by nationally-recognized musical acts / musicians - including the pig races.

    During your stay, prior to the Yakima Fresh Hop Ale Festival - purchase a ticket, enjoy a fresh corn dog, ride a few rides, and recall a simpler time where getting by didn't involve a television or a computer.
Other notables include 

Yakima - Yakima Craft Brewery + Taproom. 2920 River Rd #6, Yakima, WA 98902. 

  • Historically Yakima was the birthplace of America's brewpub culture. It was Bert Grant who started Grant's Brewing Co. in 1982. Although his brewery has long been closed, the equipment that made the beer lives on at Yakima Craft Brewery. Stop by and enjoy their 1982 or maybe an IPA.
Yakima - Bale Breaker Brewing Co. 1801 Birchfield Rd, Yakima, WA 98901. 
  • If you ever wanted to consume beer in a working hop field - this is the place. Started by the Smith family's children, Bale Breaker provides some of the freshest-tasting IPAs in the are 
Why you're Here

Started in 2002, the Fresh Hop Ale Festival offers attendants a unique opportunity to sample (minimum) 40 fresh-hopped ales, while drinking on the street, in front of Yakima's historic Opera Center. Tickets range in cost from $85 (for VIP) to $35 (for General Admission).

Cost breakdown (2015)

$85 VIP Admission

  • Exclusive Early Entry into Festival (4 PM)
  • Catered Food Buffet
  • VIP Exclusive Music
  • VIP Only Tap Handles 
  • Covered and Heated Seating
  • VIP Pint Glass
  • VIP Beer Garden
  • VIP Only Bathrooms

$35 General Admission

  • Access to over 40 breweries
  • Wineries & Cideries
  • Cigar Tent
  • Live Music
  • Collectible Pint Glass
  • Special Beers on Beer Bike
  • 3 Free Half Pints

Previously (in 2015) the following breweries were in attendance at Fresh Hop Ale Festival.


  • Bale Breaker Brewing, Yakima
  • Berchman's, Yakima
  • Brickyard, Woodinville
  • Elysian Brewing Co., Seattle
  • Georgetown Brewing Co., Seattle
  • Holy Mountain Brewing Co., Seattle
  • Hop Nation, Yakima
  • Horse Heaven Hills, Prosser
  • Ice Harbor Brewing Co., Pasco
  • Icicle Brewing Co., Leavenworth
  • Iron Goat Brewing Co., Spokane
  • Iron Horse Brewing Co., Ellensburg
  • Kulshan Brewing Co., Bellingham
  • Laht Neuppur Brewing Co., Waitsburg
  • Old Schoolhouse Brewing Co., Winthrop
  • Paradise Creek Brewing Co. Pullman
  • Reuben's Brews, Seattle
  • Snipes Mountain Brewing Co., Sunnyside
  • Stoup Brewing Co., Seattle
  • Triplehorn Brewing Co., Woodinville
  • Two Beers Brewing Co., Seattle
  • Wander Brewing Co., Bellingham
  • Yakima Craft Brewing, Yakima
  • Sockeye, Boise
  • Barley Brown's, Baker City
  • Base Camp Brewing Co., Portland
  • Beer Valley Brewing Co., Ontario (Oregon)
  • Breakside Brewing Co., Portland/Milwauke
  • Deschutes Brewing Co., Bend/Portland
  • Double Mountain Brewing Co., Hood River
  • Fat Head's Brewing Co., Portland (and throughout the United States)
  • Full Sail Brewing Co., Hood River
  • Ninkasi Brewing Co., Eugene
  • Oakshire Brewing Co., Eugene
  • pFriem Family Brewers, Hood River
  • Big Sky Brewing Co., Missoula


  • Lagunitas Brewing Co., Petaluma
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico

Before you leave ... 

Where to Go - The Great Outdoors (otherwise known as getting outside)

Despite its topographical appearances, the Yakima Valley has ranked among anglers looking for that perfect stream. Truth be told, the Yakima River holds the reputation of support a Blue Ribbon (or High Ranked) stream. (source,

This fabulous blue ribbon water offers the fly fishing enthusiast with a thriving trout population. Experience a match the hatch aquatic insect event as mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies emerge throughout the season. Absorb some of Washington States most spectacular visionary scenery and encounter a variety of wild game, wild birds and plant species along the riverbanks during the day. -source,

If the sensory experience of listening to running water or smell of a fresh-caught trout isn't your thing, then consider a trip to one of the many campgrounds around the Yakima Valley.

Yakima Sportsman State Park is a 247-acre camping park created in 1940 by the Yakima Sportsman's Association to promote game management and the preservation of natural resources. The park is on the floodplain of the Yakima River and is an irrigated green zone in an otherwise desert area. The park has a variety of deciduous trees that shade camping and picnic areas.

Colorful Ducks on the Water Ducks Swimming Yakima Sportsman Park Ranger Geese in Picnic Area Yakima Sportsman River Yakima Sportsman Viewing Platform 
Ponds, lakes, and rivers attract fishermen, both young and adult, to this location. More than 140 species of bird make wildlife watching a delight. The campground is a stay-over place for events at the Yakima Sun-Dome and fairgrounds. source,

Here are some other, helpful, ideas from the Yakima Valley Tourism group. 

In downtown Yakima, the Historic North Front Street is hopping with activity of late. The old Train Depot reopened this year with three local tenants: Russillos Pizza,  North Town Coffee and the Local Yokel. Along the street are various vendors including Garden Dance (women’s boutique), Garden Girl (plants and stuff) and Gilbert Cellars (nice wine)

As for museums, the Yakima Valley Museum is a must and through December they have a fun exhibit on Sasquatch.  Down the Valley there is the American Hop Museum in Toppenish, plus their 75 murals that depict the history of the region. In nearby Union Gap the Central Washington Ag Museum has a huge display of the farm equipment from over the decades.

The Valley is also known for our agriculture bounty. Throughout the Valley are fruit stands and produce shops that offer the bounty of the area.Farm Fresh Fun website has details. And of course, we are wine country with nearly 100 wineries up and down the Valley.

Have a safe trip to Yakima and enjoy your stay during the Fresh Hop Ale Festival.

*full disclosure. In 2015, Yakima Valley Tourism provided us accommodations, sponsored meals, and chaperon to some of the locations mentioned within this article. Some locations were previously referenced in last year's guide to Fresh Hop Ale Festival.
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