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Beercation: Yakima, Washington

Yakima, Washington might have a historical reputation as a sleepy agricultural town, but the rapid growth of craft beer has shown a new light on the valley that produces more than a quarter of the hops used in brewing around the world.

Jamie Bogner Feb 19, 2018 - 11 min read

Beercation: Yakima, Washington Primary Image

Photo by Jamie Bogner

Forty years ago, no one gave hops much of a second thought. Large brewers bought them from brokers who bought them from farms and ranches, and brewers remained, for the most part, isolated from the agricultural production of this crucial beer ingredient. But craft beer changed everything, and for at least the past decade, every brewer who’s anyone has made the trek to the Yakima Valley to walk the fields with growers in the shadow of Washington’s Cascade Range or to rub and sniff “brewers’ cuts” of one of the valley’s agricultural mainstays… hops.

Today, though, craft-beer consumers have more reason than ever to visit—this secret hideaway for the world’s brewers is becoming a bona fide tourist destination with breweries, restaurants, hotels, wineries, and retail shops to support the growing number of travelers who have succumbed to the allure of hops trellises (and vineyards, wineries, and orchards) spread throughout this high desert valley two and a half hours southeast of Seattle.

Hops history runs deep in the valley, and many of today’s farms are fifth or sixth generation affairs that trace their own history back to the 1860s and 1870s when Charles Carpenter brought commercial cultivation of hops to Yakima. Today, the Carpenters are still farming hops in the valley, and another Carpenter is chief operating officer of YCH Hops, one of the largest hops dealers in the world. Hops are a family affair.

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Jamie Bogner is the Cofounder and Editorial Director of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®. Email him at [email protected].