Seattle Times: Sniffing out Yakima Valley hops, beer lovers can hail plant that flavors ale

July 21st, 2011 · No Comments · Beer Travels, Washington Breweries

With the Yakima hop harvest about to get underway in the next month or two, the Seattle Times has a timely article today about exploring the “Land of the Hop.” It includes visits to Yakima Craft Brewing, American Hop Museum, Horse Heaven Hills, Whitstram Brewing, and Snipes Mountain. From a more personal standpoint, this article gets me excited for fresh hop beers to follow in a few months. If you have never been out to Yakima during the harvest season, I’d highly suggest it.

Following is an excerpt, and you can read the rest of the story at the Seattle Times website.

PROSSER, Benton County — Sniff. Swirl. Sip. A hint of apricot in the blond liquid. The next sample: coriander prickling the tongue. Finale: in the darkest, a kiss of cherry.

All three: that unmistakable bitter taste that comes from hops.

Sniffing, swirling and sipping are part of the whole tasting ritual for visitors to Central Washington’s wine country, particularly in this small town, its epicenter. However, I’d detoured from the wine road and was on the ale trail in search of what was brewing in the Land of the Hop.

With due respect to beer geeks, those aficionados of true craft beer — some traveling from as far as Switzerland and Germany to sip the local brews — this wasn’t a sophisticated sampling, but just a taste of the Yakima Valley’s hops, from plant to product.

It is the hop vine’s flower, whether dried, used in pellet or extract form, or fresh plucked, that gives a brew its degree of bitterness and aroma when added to beer’s other key ingredients: malt, water and yeast.

A long, hoppy history

Hops have been grown here in the Yakima Valley since Charles Carpenter brought roots from his father’s New York farm and planted them in 1868 just west of present-day Yakima. By the early 1900s hop crops stretched from Moxee to the Lower Yakima Valley, where today they continue to grow — in an area more widely known now as wine country.


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