Yakima Fresh Hop Ale Festival Roundup and Pics
October 4, 2011 - 9:53 AM-- by Kendall Jones, Washington Beer Blog --
Saturday, October 1st we attended the Yakima Fresh Hop Ale Festival. Once again it was a fantastic event with copious quantities of delicious Fresh Hop Ale. The annual festival is a fundraiser for the Allied Arts of Yakima Valley. In the shadow of the historic Capitol Theater in downtown Yakima, an enthusiastic crowd happily supported the cause and enjoyed Fresh Hop Ale from 24 breweries.
This year, the winning breweries were Ice Harbor, Laughing Dog, and Fremont, in that order. Last year, if memory serves, none of the winners were from Washington. And let's face it, Laughing Dog Brewing is in Sandpoint, which is just barely Idaho. We can practically consider it a clean sweep.
What We Like
Besides the beer (duh), here are some of the things we love about this festival:
- Seriously, where better to do a fresh hop festival? The Yakima Valley is where you find 75 percent of the hop farms in the nation (by acreage).
- The music is great. The first band starts shortly after the festival gates open and the music continues until the taps are shut off. Instead of using this as an opportunity to introduce new music, they focus on classic rock: the stuff people really want to hear. This year the show ended with an incendiary rendition of Ted Nugent's Stranglehold. The crowd loved it.
- For a beer festival, the food is amazing. Admittedly, some of it is mundane fair food, but some of it is exceptional. (See the photo below of the taco bar. Very fresh salsa.) One booth serves nothing but corn on the cob dipped in a big vat of melted butter. It is harvest season in the Yakima Valley and I guarantee you will find no fresher corn on the planet unless you grow it yourself.
- The crowd is great. With very few exceptions, people are polite and friendly. Also, people are not too critical of the beers. At many beer festivals all-knowing beer geeks feel compelled to find beers on which to pass judgement, as if they need to complain to prove how much they know. The crowd at Yakima Fresh Hop just wants to have a good time. Towards the end of the night it gets a bit sloppy, but you'll have that at any beer festival.
- You can get a full pint of something if you really like it.
- Going to the farmers market the next morning. Like I said, it's harvest season. Amazing produce at the market, which takes place in the same location as the festival.
- We participated on the judging panel this year. It was an honor. We can tell everyone firsthand that the panel takes the judging very seriously. It is a completely blind tasting.