While there are countless craft breweries pouring exceptional sips across the U.S., those looking to try great beers straight from the source should head to Washington’s Yakima Valley.
Yakima-area breweries take the concept of fresh off the farm to a whole new level, and that’s because of their access to hops. More than 75% of the country’s hops, which are a key flavoring and bittering agent for beer, are grown, harvested and processed in the valley. As a result of that access, Yakima has become a hub for excellent craft brewing and only continues to grow.
According to Kyrié Benson, co-leader of Yakima’s Pink Boots Society chapter, a nonprofit that supports women in brewing, there were only two breweries when she moved to the area six years ago. Now, there are more than a dozen.
“Though we have lost a few breweries along the way, the beer scene is going strong and the appreciation of a good quality brew has never been more present,” she says. “Yakima is a great opportunity for beer snobs, as I call them, mostly because we get the freshest hops. Coming straight from a field to a refrigerator gives us the freshest product year-round.”
To help plan your trip to this top beer destination, here’s a list of must-visit spots for beer and exceptional eats from restaurants embracing the area’s agricultural bounty.
Bale Breaker Brewing Company
Bale Breaker was opened in 2013 by siblings Meghann Quinn, Kevin “Smitty” Smith and Patrick Smith and has been a hit in the valley ever since. But the brewery’s roots go back much further. The owners’ great-grandparents started farming hops in 1932; after growing up in an agricultural family, the siblings wanted to embrace a true fresh off-the-farm approach.
The brewery was built right in the middle of hop fields, so there’s plenty of opportunity to take in the sights and smells of the farm—especially during the hop harvest. The taproom has 16 beers on offer, including year-round flagships such as the Topcutter IPA and Field 41 pale ale, along with rotating seasonals and limited releases from the experimental “Imagination Station” menu.
“I always tell everyone to ask for their experimental menu,” says Benson. “These are usually brews that are one-time made—unless they really catch on with the public. I have had some amazing sours from their experimental menu.”
In addition to a wide range of beers, there’s plenty of seating both inside and out on the lawn or patio, as well as a rotating food truck schedule featuring local eats.
Cowiche Creek Brewing Company
Cowiche Creek Brewing is the ideal destination for expansive views, delicious food and refreshing beer. “The beer is born nearby and brewed on-site,” says Yakima native and foodie Matt Uhlman, who chronicles his favorite local eats on Instagram through The Eaten Road.
The taproom, which opened in 2017, is surrounded by hop bines. Owners Derrick and Maria Nordberg both come from farming families and planted their own barley, which they use for the operation’s estate-grown beers.
“The food here is truly unmatched to any brewery in the area. Derrick takes the culinary game to another level,” says Uhlman. Everything from burgers and pastrami sandwiches to prime rib has been on the menu, making easy pairings for brews like the Farmer Way IPA or hopped-up Golden Soda pilsner.
Single Hill Brewing
Single Hill has created the ultimate downtown Yakima community space, which includes both an indoor and outdoor taproom. “They took a rundown tire shop and turned it into a must-hit spot,” says Uhlman. “They have a vision and have fun with it.”
Dedicated to ingredients locally-sourced locally in the valley, the brewery is making beer fun while embracing experimentation and working with a wide variety of hop strains.
There are 16 beers on tap, with a diverse selection to offer something for beer lovers of every stripe. Try Single Hill’s year-round Cerveza blonde ale or tap into Island Reverie, a fruity guava and passionfruit sour.
Tieton Cider Works
Tieton Cider Works is a great stop for beer lovers who are also cider aficionados—or simply cider curious. “Tieton was perhaps the first to make the most obvious Yakima Valley move and create tantalizing libations centering around the fruit industry we are known for,” says Shawn Niles, MasterChef contestant and owner of Yakima restaurant Eats & Elixirs.
The fruit used in the operation’s various ciders come from Craig and Sharon Campbell’s Harmony Orchards, which is on land that’s been in the couple’s family since the 1920s. Tieton’s offerings are centered around these apples and other locally-sourced ingredients, and include options like lavender honey cider, cherry cider and dry-hopped cider made from locally grown hops.
Hoptown Wood-Fired Pizza
Hoptown isn’t your average pizza place. The eatery embraces fresh ingredients and fires pizza pies in a 900°F oven powered by fragrant apple wood. Owners Lori Roy and Carrie Wright are both the daughters of area farmers; Roy grew up on one of the valley’s oldest hop farms.
Niles says it’s a top spot to visit in the valley because of its tasty grub that pairs excellently with local brew. “Carrie and Lori are the most gracious hosts, and their unique take on pizza and every other menu item is well thought out and delicious with every bite,” he says.
There’s a wide range of pizzas to choose from, including the Hopdaddy, which is finished with a sprinkle of hops, along with sides like the Hey Elote corn dip, which Niles says is a can’t-miss. Pair it with a beer from one of Hoptown’s rotating taps featuring locally-brewed selections, or sip on its house-made hops and fig cider, Frisky Seester.
Eats & Elixirs
For a change of pace after a day of brewery hopping, grab a seat at Eats & Elixirs. The restaurant is run by Julie Kirchhoff and Niles, who also runs Bite Club Yakima, an underground members-only dining club. The vintage, speakeasy-like space has a relaxed vibe and features a menu of globally-inspired tapas.
“The group that works here, as a whole, has a wonderfully diverse background, and has done a great job of gathering foods that bring comfort and joy from all corners of the globe,” says Uhlman. “It’s rare to find a place where you can get an amazing take on a Montecristo, Thai fried chicken, Brazilian patatas bravas or a deliciously done paella at the same meal.”
Don’t skimp on pairing your meal with craft cocktails or a pour from Eats & Elixirs‘s locally-focused beer and wine selection. According to Benson, the cocktails here are entirely Instagram-worthy, taking flavor and presentation into account. Drinks are served up in stunning glassware and made with Pacific Northwest-produced spirits, including Woodinville whiskey and Crater Lake Spirits gin. Meanwhile, the wine selection highlights Yakima Valley winemakers including Two Mountain Winery, Owen Roe and sparkling options from Treveri Cellars. Need more beer? Local favorites, including Bale Breaker and Cowiche Creek are on the menu here, too.
For a well-executed meal, head to Crafted. With James Beard Foundation Award nominee Dan Koommoo at the helm, along with his wife Mollie, the welcoming eatery embraces the bounty of the Yakima Valley. “Most of the ingredients come from within 20 miles of the restaurant, from farms where they know the people growing and harvesting the food,” says Uhlman. Dishes, which are served family-style, change frequently based on seasonality and what the restaurant’s farming partners are harvesting.
The drink selection here features a mix of local beers, wines and spirits. Order a beer sourced from nearby Cowiche Creek Brewing or Bale Breaker, or a glass of wine produced by Gilbert Cellars or Fortuity Cellars—both less than 15 miles down the road. According to Benson, Crafted’s cocktails are just as fresh and exciting as their food menu.
Varietal Beer Co.
Varietal is located further south in the Yakima Valley in Sunnyside, but for locals and travelers alike, it’s absolutely worth the drive. There’s plenty of seating at this community hub, both inside and out in the beer garden. The outdoor space is kid-friendly and dog-friendly, with a large grassy area and hops growing on the fence line.
The tap list here is extensive, with everything from lagers and IPAs to stouts. Varietal has an excellent sour beer program and features guest beers and Pacific Northwest hard ciders as well. “They have solid hazy IPAs and they like experimenting with all unique styles,” adds Benson. Bring a picnic to pair with your beer or grab food from the rotating on-site food truck.
How to Get Around
Though renting a car is always an option, the Little Hopper is an area beer bus that was launched with the goal of helping connect beer lovers with area breweries while serving as the designated driver. The Little Hopper’s owner, Wendy King, offers multiple services on her colorful 14-seat bus. You can choose to book it for a private tour led by a local or use the hop-on-hop-off option, which runs on select weekends and has four different brewery stops rotating during the day for a more casual approach.
Last Updated: June 6, 2023