Take 5 is a meetup with a local entrepreneur.Wandering Hop Brewery is a fusion of owner Nathan Cooper’s love of travel and craft beer.
Taking inspiration from his travels, Cooper and his three employees have developed 11 different beers, along with food pairings to go with his IPAs, German ale, cream ale and malt liquor.
A Yakima native, Cooper opened his North 20th Avenue location in 2017, about two years after he first conceived of the idea of going into the craft beer business and started brewing beer in his garage.
Cooper and his wife, Whitney, have a 20-month-old son, Edison.
How did you decide to start your own business?
I decided to start Wandering Hop after multiple business venture discussions with my father, Sonny Cooper. I have always had a passion for craft beer and the brewery scene. After being at Bale Breaker’s grand opening, the idea consumed me, and I wanted to find a way into the industry. After meeting with friends in the industry, we decided to go for it and began brewing small-scale batches in my garage.
What were some of the challenges you faced starting out, and how did you overcome them?
We faced challenges with federal licensing. The process took nearly nine months, and we weren’t allowed to brew and sell beer during that time. We had several equipment issues that all resulted in more expenses and delays. Finding adequate parking for our facility was also quite a challenge. We were forced to pave a neighboring parking lot and contract a parking agreement with them. Now we face some more positive challenges: growth. We are completely maxed out on production and can’t make enough beer.
Has Yakima’s craft- and microbrew- beer culture had any influence on your business, and if so, how?
Yakima’s craft and beer culture has inspired me beyond any other experience. The local hop harvest and hop selection brings a who’s who of big names to the area, and it’s incredible sharing a beer with one of your idols and inspirations. Bale Breaker has helped us countless times and proven that the camaraderie in this industry is unmatched elsewhere. Growing up here has given me an appreciation for the local hops and agriculture, which we proudly use in every product we make. A trip to a fruit stand usually results in a new one-off creation here.
Where do you find the inspiration for your beers?
We find the inspiration for our beers usually through travel. Whenever my wife and I travel, we go out of our way to try new foods, new breweries and just explore. Inspiration can strike at any time, and there’s a lengthy list of ideas saved on my phone. Whether it be a 14-hour day of delivering beer in the Seattle/Tacoma area or just a stroll through the grocery store, ideas are constantly flowing from my staff and myself.
Most recently I have expanded my love for the culinary arts and experimented with new food options and beers to pair them with. For a while, we were so focused on brewing the same beers over and over to keep up with our staple recipes. Recently, Trevor (Bates, Wandering Hop’s brewer) decided to bring our pilot system out of retirement and rattled off several new beers. Recently we brewed a Ginger & Lemon Saision, a Key Lime Milkshake IPA, a Maple & Bacon Stout, a Lemonhead Sour, a Weizenbock and a Peppered Cream Ale brewed with serrano, jalapeño and habañero peppers.
What is your favorite beer, and why?
My tastes are constantly changing and evolving. I absolutely love Sticky Hands, by Block 15 brewing in Corvallis, Ore. A recent favorite that I definitely had too much of was our collaboration beer with Bale Breaker, Careless Whirlpool. It ticked all the boxes for the perfect Hazy IPA.