The Yakima Valley has been a leading hop producer for a century, and it was the home of Grant's Brewery Pub, which legendary brewer Bert Grant opened in 1982 as the country's first post-Prohibition brewpub, but it mostly missed the first decade of the ongoing craft beer era.
Grant's closed in 2005 and for a good long while that left Snipes Mountain Brewery, which opened in Sunnyside in 1997, and Yakima Craft Brewing, which opened in Yakima in 2008, as Yakima County's only breweries. That has changed in the past six years or so, with the turning point being the 2013 opening of Bale Breaker Brewing Company, which quickly became one of the state's largest and most consistently acclaimed brewers.
Bale Breaker, which sits in the middle of a hop field in Moxee, capitalized on Yakima's hop heritage, something others in the industry quickly jumped on. Now the Yakima Valley is home to more than a dozen breweries, many of which emphasize the farm-to-glass concept.
"It's a great place for a lot of reasons," said Ty Paxton, who opened Single Hill Brewing Company in downtown Yakima last year. "But the main one, for craft beer lovers, is this is the home of the hop. We are the hop capital."
* Single Hill, 102 N. Naches Ave., Yakima, is just one of the new generation of breweries continuing Grant's legacy. It is known for offering a variety of beer styles and creating a taproom environment that's family friendly and casual.
Some of the other must-visit breweries in the Yakima Valley are:
* Bale Breaker, 1801 Birchfield Road, Yakima
Renowned for hop-forward ales such as its Topcutter and Bottomcutter IPAs, Bale Breaker quickly became the area's flagship brewery. Its bucolic surroundings belie just what a large, professional operation it has become. But fear not, it's still got plenty of that small-town charm.
* Cowiche Creek Brewing Company, 514 Thompson Road, Cowiche
Founded by third-generation farmers Maria and Derrick Nordberg, Cowiche opened its taproom in 2017 and has since quietly emerged as a local favorite. Its Fickle Blonde and Cash Cow Pilsner provide nice counterpoints to its hop-centric lineup of mostly ales. Whatever you choose to drink there will be good.
* Yakima Craft Brewing, 2960 River Road, Yakima
Respect must be paid to the business that brought craft brewing back to Yakima. When no one else around here was making good beer, Yakima Craft was. And it still is. Nowadays, though, it also has a brand new(ish) family-friendly taproom complete with ping-pong tables and the occasional live band.
* Varietal Beer Company, 416 E. Edison Ave., Sunnyside
Opened in 2018, Varietal provided a hip downtown counterpart to the more stately Snipes Mountain Brewery across town. They both make great beer, but Varietal is a better stop for a casual after-work pint. Plus, it has the flexibility to do weird (often delicious) small batches of experimental beers. And, after you've stopped in at Varietal, you can always head over to Snipes (905 Yakima Valley Highway) if you want your next pint alongside a good sit-down meal.