Washington Beer: Yakima Fresh Hop Festival

Washington beer adventure: The Fresh Hop Festival in Yakima

written by Jackie Dodd

It started with the best of intentions, as most things do. A campsite near the Fresh Hop Festival in Yakima would make a great home base for a weekend of beer and overindulgence. It didn’t turn out quite as expected, and in some ways that was the best part.

After a late arrival Friday night, we stumbled out of our respective tents early Saturday morning as the sun was just starting to chase the chill from the air. As the smell of fresh coffee and stale beer filled the air, a sheriff’s car pulled up near our campsite. “Have you seen this man? He’s wanted,” the deputy asked, holding up a black-and-white mugshot printed on cheap paper. As we stared at the image of a shaved-head man, I noticed three more deputies walking in lockstep to other camps. “Does this have to do with the freshly dug grave?” One of the men at our campsite had heard a rumor the night before. He’d blown it off as exaggeration until this very moment. “All I can tell you is that he’s wanted and last spotted in this campground,” the deputy replied. After confirming that the unnamed man was both armed and dangerous, he left us to wallow in the regret of our decision to camp.

In that moment I remembered a conversation I’d had with a friend who owns a gorgeous hops field—Morrier Ranch—just down the street from Bale Breaker Brewery, less than 2 miles away. She’d offered to let us camp at her place, on the edge of the hop field.

A few frantic texts later, the invitation was renewed and the decision was made: we’d spend Fresh Hop Fest camping, yes, but camping on the edge of a hops field. The sunny Saturday afternoon spent setting up tents in the expansive field dissolved into an evening at Yakima’s Fresh Hop Fest. The festival was exactly what we wanted in every way—people we knew from the beer industry excited to see each other in the wild, pint after pint of beer infused with the lovely lupulin oils that only comes from beer brewed with hops right off the bine, and the safety of knowing we wouldn’t be sharing a campsite with a wanted man.
We returned to “camp” to find a raging campfire surrounded by people who love hops as much as we do, ready to share more beer and nearly endless laughs. What could have been a disaster turned into an unforgettable weekend due to the simple generosity of a hop farmer. After all, that’s what beer is—a community. We stick together, we help each other out, we do what we can when we can. Thank God for beer people.

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