Birthplace of the brews

Nobody gets a beer until Yakima says so.

Sure. Brag about the wine, the apples and all those days of sunshine we get here in the Yakima Valley.

But for my money, one of the best things about living around here is being able to smile smugly as you raise a beer with some out-of-town acquaintances and remark casually, “You know, if it weren’t for Yakima, most of the country would be reduced to drinking lemonade or soda or milk or something.

“They wouldn’t get any beer if it weren’t for us.”

(Raising an eyebrow or two around the table with a bold statement straight out of left field is often a good conversation-starter, I’ve found.)

Then, of course, you can let your company in on the not-so-secret-anymore fact that we grow roughly three quarters of the country’s hops right here.

Yup, you can say, if Memphis can call itself the birthplace of the blues, Yakima has the right to say it’s the birthplace of the brews.

And just look what we’ve grown. With about two dozen craft breweries from Sunnyside to Ellensburg, the Yakima area has become one of Washington’s premier brewing spots. Our beers have won national accolades and loyal followings as new pubs have continued to pop up all over the place.

Like everyone else, of course, our brewers have had their share of struggles these past few months. But as Ryan Messer reports in this annual beer-themed issue, they’ve come up with some impressively innovative answers as they work their way through this seemingly endless pandemic. Some have even managed to do a little expanding.

They’ve also kept experimenting and collaborating. Molly Allen finds that one of the most successful local ventures of late involves sour beers which, thanks to some help from our local fruit and wine industries, are yielding some sweet returns.

And all this progress is promising news for everyone’s health, according Christine Conklin’s story on how Yakima’s hops are helping scientists research whether beer is doing our health any good. (I won’t give anything away here, but if you like beer, you’re gonna like what they’re finding.)

Even if you don’t like beer, you’re bound to like what else there is to see in this issue.

Andrea fires up a Kitchen Captivated treat — sweet, smoky pulled pork and a zippy broccoli apple slaw — that’d go great with a crowler of your favorite local beer.

Glenda Tjarnberg saddles up for a profile on East Valley horse trainer Liz Martinez, who’s just opened up her own arena where she hosts events and teaches riders how to enjoy the sport she’s loved all her life.

And check out Carol Barany’s feature on how Little Free Libraries are helping local neighborhoods keep a spirit of community thriving.

All in all, this edition ought to quench your thirst for some more stories about local people whose pursuits are making Yakima an increasingly inviting place to be.

Who’s up for a little sip?

- John Taylor