Thursday, March 3, 2011

Celebrating Beer and Hops in the Yakima Valley!

In Washington State, hops are grown commercially only in the Yakima Valley, which supplies over 75% of the hops in the USA. There are three distinct growing areas; the Moxee Valley, the Yakama Nation Reservation, and the Prosser area.
Located east of the city of Yakima, Moxee farmers grow numerous acres of hops called hop yards, which can be seen while driving along Highway 24 toward Moxee. The Yakima Valley celebrates hops with, "The Moxee Hop Festival" in early August every year. This year, featuring live music, entertainment and a 5K run during the day. Friday and Saturday evenings feature Live music in the Beer Garden from 9-12 , celebrating the product that hops are used for.
In late August, "A Case of the Blues & All That Jazz" features Jazz music
, local food vendors, a silent auction, Yakima Valley wineries and Pacific Northwest micro brews all under tents in the beautiful Sarg Hubbard Park. Bring a lawn chair or purchase a VIP table. Travelers to Yakima for this event enjoy the option of two hotels within walking distance, which are the Oxford Inn and the Oxford Suites. Book early as this event always sells out.

The Annual Fresh Hop Ale Fest
showcases many micro-brews and a competition for beers produced with fresh hops from the Yakima Valley. Every year the event is in front of the historic Capital Theater starting at 6pm. Fresh hop cones grown and harvested in the Yakima Valley, instead of dried and/or pelleted hops, are used by competing brewers to capture the herbal, grassy characteristic only available in a freshly-picked hop. The fresh hop ale’s requirement that Yakima Valley hops must travel from the vine to the brewing vat in less than 24 hours. Sample from the 16 Craft Breweries competing for the Commercial Brewers Fresh Hop Ale Awards, decide which you like best, dance to live music, purchase some dinner (great bratwurst at this event!) and enjoy the
revitalized Downtown Yakima ambiance. All proceeds support the Allied Arts of Yakima Valley’s community arts programs. Hotels within easy walking distance of this event in Downtown Yakima are the Hilton Garden Inn, Red Lion, Holiday Inn at Downtown Yakima Convention Center, Howard Johnsons, Holiday Inn Express, and Cedar Suites.

Make your own Fresh Hop Ale and enter contest. Annual Home Brewing Contest Enter YOUR homebrewed Fresh Hop Ale in the competition for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place homebrew Fresh Hop Ale. The brews will be judged in September and the top 3 winners will be revealed on Saturday night at the festival, where the winners will be recognized!

Hop Harvest Video:

Hop harvest starts in late August and at that time the vine at the base of each plant is cut, then the top of the vine is cut from the 18 foot high wire, falling into the truck at an approximate pace of an acre an hour. The cut vines are brought to the processing facility and lifted onto a series of conveyor belts that separate the hop cones from the leaves and vines.

The cones contain 80 percent water and would rot or mold quickly if they were not spread across a kiln, heated with natural gas burners, and allowed to dry for 10 hours in the huge drying room. After drying, the cones contain about nine percent moisture. They are dumped onto another conveyor belt sending them to a warehouse where they are poured and compressed into 200-pound burlap bags to be ground into powder. The burlap bags are shipped to a processing plant, to be made into pellets, liquid extract, or sold to a broker, who markets the hops to breweries. The process from field to truck takes 24 hours.

Yakima Hops in the news. 

The Seattle Times July 20, 2011 "Sniffing out Yakima Valley hops, beer lovers can hail plant that flavors ale" by Jackie Smith

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