Saturday, July 27, 2013

WAWeekend: On the Spirits and Ale Trail

A couple years ago I visited the Yakima Valley researching a Washington Ale Trail travel article for the Seattle Times and followed a customized ‘ale trail map’ I’d developed for myself. 

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That’s because the tourism folks in this cradle of Central Washington’s wide open spaces and agricultural lands didn’t have such a document. . .but, they promised, it was coming.

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They did have ‘wine road’ maps because those producers of the grapes and the makers of the vino are pretty much the headliners of the area – and have been for the past few decades. That wasn’t of much use because I was on the trail of ale. . .

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The hop – the basic ingredient of ales – has been grown in the Yakima Valley for decades. High school chums used to earn spending money by ‘stringing hops’; twirling those twisty little shoots around the strings that would lead the vine skyward as the summer continued. Hop kilns, those enormous bigger-than-barns wooden structures used to dry the hops at harvest time dotted the landscape.

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Hop Vineyards in the Yakima Valley
Here’s  the kicker: 78% of the hops grown in the United States are grown in the Yakima Valley!

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American Hop Museum - Toppenish, WA

International visitors make treks to the American Hop Museum in the small Lower Yakima Valley town of Toppenish but not a lot of folks on this side of the state or elsewhere, I suspect, even know of its existence. (It is well worth a visit if you’ve never been there!)

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Hop cluster

Back to those tourism folks and that map they promised. . .just this week I got a news release with a link to:

 The Yakima Valley Spirits and Hops Trail website which has that promised map, a list of upcoming events, ‘sip spots’ and ‘guzzle and grub’.

Kudos to those folks because it’s an amazing piece of work and will serve any visitor well! Click the link above and check it out.

Here’s a couple of the events you’ll find listed there:

Annual Apple Valley Kiwanis Wine Country Trek Sat.– Sun., September 28 - 29

A scenic two-day, 120-mile bike ride, round-trip from Yakima to Prosser, through vineyards, hop fields and orchards. Start time from Yakima on Saturday is 8:00 a.m. returning Sunday at 6 p.m. Registration is $135 per cyclist with all proceeds going to Kiwanis community and youth service projects. This event coincides with the Hot Air Balloon Festival and the Harvest Festival in Prosser. Registration includes our famous gourmet dinner, the balloon glow, overnight camping (indoor and outdoor) in Prosser, Sunday morning breakfast, baggage transportation and break stops. For information, visit

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Finished product: ales

Attendees at the 11th Annual Fresh Hop Ale Festival can enjoy selections from numerous participating breweries in addition to brewing demonstrations, a cigar tent, food from local restaurants, live music and street dancing. The Festival begins at 5 p.m. and will continue until 10 p.m. Ticket prices are $30 if purchased in advance and $35 at the gate. All proceeds benefit Allied Arts of Yakima Valley which coordinates art programs, classes and events for the community. Pre-sale ($30) tickets are on sale at local businesses around the Yakima Valley during regular business hours through noon on Friday October 4. Plenty of tickets will also be available for $35 at the gate. Ticket price includes a commemorative beer glass and $6 scrip (used instead of cash for beer and wine, but note that food is cash only and that the event is 21+ only. ID is required for entry. For more information, visit

If  You Go:

Map picture

There are daily flights from SeaTac (Seattle Tacoma International) to  Yakima. Driving time from Seattle is about three hours to the Lower Valley;  little more than two hours to Yakima.

That’s it for this weekend’s focus on Washington State.  As always thanks for the time you spend with us. Hope you’ll tell friends to come along on our journeys together.  They can sign up to receive the posts  by going to the home page,

And a request to our Facebook followers:  if you have a post that you particularly like, please ‘share’ it on your page – that what keeps the page in circulation!
Happy and Safe Travels~


  1. This is wonderful news for my husband -- when we visit our Seattle relatives it's all about the wineries. This will make him happy!

    1. Yes, Jennie, you can assure him that he will find some fabulous ales in the Yakima Valley. You might try the Fresh Hop Festival in October there - it draws hundreds of ale-fans!

  2. Seattle has been showing up on my radar more and more lately and this is just another great reason to visit. I'll be sure and check out the Ale trail website; it sounds like something my husband would really enjoy. :)

    1. It is a beautiful drive between Seattle and Yakima so I'd recommend taking the road trip version and stopping at the long-ago mining towns of Roslyn and Cle Elum along the way - don't miss the Cle Elum bakery if you do!

  3. Hello Jackie and Joel

    I have learned from your blog, thanks for showing the image of the hop plant which I find fascinating.

    Have a great week
    Helen xx

    1. Oh, Helen, your comment is music to my ears. We are trying to make the blog informative and not just a re-hash of recent travels we've taken. It sounds from your comment, that we achieved that this time. Have a great weekend! Jackie xo

  4. You took such great pics of the hops and the countryside. Beautiful!! Now I'm craving ale. :-)

    1. That last photo does that to you, doesn't it? Thanks for your visit today and hope you have a great week! Did any of that Pacific rainstorm hit you Down Under?

  5. It's an interesting fact that Yakima Valley grows the majority of hops in US. I wouldn't mind going there for that ale :)

    1. Hi Salika, If you ever get to this area, hope you'll visit my old stomping grounds. I was born and raised in Yakima and long before it had wine or ale 'trails'. Thanks much for your visit today - please come back again!

  6. Thanks for the education in hops, Jackie! I had no idea so much hops were grown in Washington state. I love the way they hops curl up on to the strings. It reminds me of the way we grow yams in Jamaica.
    I'm not big on ale but I bet that festival must be a blast!

    Thanks for linking up this week!

    1. So Marcia, I had no idea that yams grew like that. We have a decorative plant for gardens called a Sweet Potato Vine, but it never occurred to me that it might have evolved from something like the yams. Thanks for visiting today!


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