Fresh Yakima Valley Hops
Eighty percent of all American hops are grown in the Yakima Valley. Despite being so near the fields, Central Washington has never been a hotbed for brewing. In the early eighties, Bert Grant opened the first modern brewpub in the United States, Yakima Brewing and Malting Company. But after Grant’s death in 2001, the company quickly fell apart. Since that time New breweries have popped up here and there, but the largest is Bale Breaker Brewing. Founded in 2013 by three siblings and third generation hop farmers, Bale Breaker is now one of the larger breweries in the state.
Naturally, Bale Breaker focuses on hop forward beers made with locally grown hops. Their range has a distinct hoppy flavor, not so much juicy or fruity but raw and leafy. Opening a fresh can is like shoving your face in a bag of hops. The homebrewers out there know what I’m talking about. The flavors are fresh and green and earthy.
For example, Leota Mae, the juiciest beer in their lineup, still has certain earthy dankness. It’s brewed with trendy Mosaic and Ekuanot, but the flavor is balanced. The nose is floral. The flavor is fresh. No mango or passion fruit, just grapefruit and pine, yet the beer tastes new and exciting.
Top Cutter and Bottom Cutter, single and double IPAs respectively, are a more old school. The flavors are bitter and earthy – pine tar, cedar, a third thing. But the aroma is one hundred percent raw hops. Even Bale Breaker’s light pale ale – Field 41, only 4.5% ABV – reveals a huge scent. Herbal hop flowers just waft from the can.
I’m not sure how they do it, but I am in love with these beers. Is it a new dry hopping technique? Is it just the freshness of having the hops grown right there? I don’t know, but I am definitely going to look for more.