The Yakima Valley’s celebration of craft-brewed beers and the locally grown hops that help flavor them is set for Saturday evening at the Sozo Sports Complex.

More than 70 breweries, wineries and cideries will serve their libations beginning at 5 p.m., with food vendors and entertainment also planned for the Fresh Hop Ale Festival. Those with VIP tickets may enter at 4 p.m.

The Yakima Valley produces more than 70% of our nation’s hops and is second only to Germany in overall production, according to The Fresh Hop board, which organizes the festival.

“We celebrate the harvest with fresh hop beers (served at the festival),” the board states on the festival’s Facebook page. “These beers have to be brewed with fresh hops from the Valley and can only be produced at this time of year. Each one of our breweries submits a beer into judging and winners are announced during the festival.”

These beers made with fresh “wet” hops — as opposed to processed, dried hops — have for years drawn beer fans from throughout the region, nation and world to the festival and to breweries in the Yakima Valley during the hop harvest season.

General admission tickets include entry into the festival, a commemorative tasting glass and four tasting tokens. Additional tasting tokens, food and festival merchandise are available for purchase during the event.

Pandemic safety factors

The festival, held in downtown Yakima for its first 17 years, returns at a new location this year after the 2020 event was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to the recent surge in COVID cases and statewide requirements for outdoor events with more than 500 people, organizers will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the festival.

In addition, everyone must sign a COVID-19 liability waiver prior to entering the festival gates stating they do not have any symptoms. Masks are required at all times regardless of vaccination status, except when eating or drinking.

“These measures will allow us to continue with this year’s festival, while still providing a safe and fun experience,” Karl Vanevenhoven, Fresh Hop Group board president, said when announcing the COVID requirements on Sept. 15.

Entertainment begins at 5:30 p.m. and will feature regional bands The Side Project, The Chase Craig Band and Eden (formerly known as Shaggy Sweet) performing music of varied styles, including folk, country and rock.

Beer judging is at 8 p.m.; last call is 9 p.m., and the festival closes at 10 p.m.

On-site parking is available for $5 at the Sozo complex; free shuttles are also available from downtown and other sites around Yakima.

The 2019 Fresh Hop Ale Festival drew a record 6,800 attendees, and proceeds from the event support arts and science organizations in the Yakima Valley.

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