Hours away from the iconic coastlines of the Pacific Northwest, the Yakima Valley in central Washington is one of the most vibrant agricultural centers across the entire country, home to more than 30 distinct varieties of fruits and vegetables. Yakima is perhaps most well known as the de facto capital of American hops; approximately three-quarters of all hops grown in the U.S. originate in the Yakima Valley. Local beer makers don’t let this natural resource in their backyard go to waste, making it easy to say that every Yakima brewery is worth your time and attention.
There are few places with bigger footprints in American craft beer than Yakima. The vast majority of iconic New World hops—Citra, Amarillo, Cascade, Mosaic, Simcoe and many more—are grown right in the heart of Yakima Valley.
Beyond the area’s hop production, Yakima’s first brewery started operations in the early 1980s. In the time since, brewery and hop farm trails have popped up across the region, making the area a destination of unique indulgence for craft beer enthusiasts.
You’ll want to stretch your legs a good bit when you visit Yakima. The valley is a gorgeous expanse of colorful farmland blanketed by lush, climbing steeps that has to be seen to be believed. To help you get around and make the most of your time in Yakima, we’ve put together a helpful guide of Yakima breweries, restaurants and interesting sites you need to check out during your stay.
BEST YAKIMA BREWERIES
Check out this list to help you find your new favorite Yakima brewery.
Where the Hop Heads Go
No area in the world has the embarrassment of riches that Yakima enjoys with its plentiful hop farms. Hop bines dot the countryside and produce classic hop varietals, alongside new and experimental hops that have yet to made available to the general public. Simply put, every brewery in the Yakima Valley has an IPA worth checking out solely because of their availability to fresh hops.
But if you want to taste beers made with the absolute freshest hops possible, only a few other breweries can stack up to what Bale Breaker Brewing Company pours out of its taproom. The family-owned brewery was built on a site adjacent to Loftus Ranches, the family farm that produces apples, cherries and, of course, hops.
Hops from Loftus Ranches are processed and used to brew fresh IPAs, pale ales and other hop-forward beers at Bale Breaker Brewing Company. The brewery says its hops travel just 4 minutes from farm to kettle.
Which beer should you pick up at Bale Breaker Brewing Company? Our recommendation is to find anything on tap (or in a can) that was wet hopped or anything that contains fresh hops. You’ll find those beers in spades at this brewery.
Bale Breaker Brewing Company even has a “Homegrown Beer Series” that features brews made entirely from ingredients—hops and grains—sourced on Loftus Ranches.
Drinks With a View
No matter when you visit Yakima, the valley is a wondrous landscape painted with trailing vineyards, livestock and colorful fruit orchards. Even when you’re out on brewery trails, you’ll want to take a moment to sit back and soak it all in.
That’s when Cowiche Creek Brewing should come in to play for you. The brewery has a huge outdoor space where visitors get to sit back and soak in the sweeping hills of neighboring farms. Cowiche Creek Brewing takes full advantage of its space and brings in live music to complement the brewery’s atmosphere.
Don’t skip out on Cowiche Creek Brewing’s draughts, though. Like other Yakima breweries, Cowiche Creek Brewing has plenty of fresh hop IPAs on tap, to go along stouts, session beers and even ciders.
Where to Find the Best Seasonal Releases
One stark advantage to operating a brewhouse smack dab in the middle of hop country is you can utilize the nearby farms to tinker around with fresh ingredients. Few breweries do that better than Wandering Hop Brewery.
If you’re looking for a tap wall of constantly rotating small batch releases, Wandering Hop Brewery might look like heaven to you. The brewery is constantly playing with hop flavors in its IPAs, so you’re likely to find half a dozen different IPAs, double IPAs or even milkshake IPAs available at any given point in time.
But Wandering Hop Brewery also puts out seasonal beers that fall on the maltier side of things, like dark Belgian winter beers and Hefeweizen for the later summer and fall.
An Afternoon in Yakima – Exploring Downtown Yakima
Check out this collection of local hot spots in close proximity so you can eat, drink and see Yakima in one afternoon.
While it’s great to get around the Yakima Valley, sometimes what a wandering beer tourist needs is a day in the city. Yakima actually has a vibrant downtown area full of fantastic breweries, diverse dining options and local culture to immerse yourself in.
One of the greatest things about Yakima is you don’t have to look far for a good brewery, and downtown Yakima is no exception.
Start your beer adventure downtown at Single Hill Brewing, one of Yakima’s most highly-rated breweries citywide. Single Hill Brewing was designed as a social space, so you’ll find tons of seating in an airy, open space. The brewery keeps a diverse lineup of brews on its tap wall, so in the very unlikely event you’re getting tired of wet-hopped IPAs, you can bet on finding tart sours and crispy lagers to cleanse your palate at Single Hill Brewing.
On the easternmost stretches of downtown Yakima you’ll find 5th Line Brewing Co. Similar to Single Hill Brewing, the brewers at 5th Line Brewing Co. are focused on producing a wide lineup of beer styles for patrons to choose from. On any given day you could find anything ranging from an Irish Red Ale to a Dunkelweizen to fruited seltzers on draught at the brewery.
When you’re ready to put down some local Yakima delicacies, there is no better place to start than Cheese Zombies. Yes, you read that right. In essence, a Cheese Zombie is a grilled cheese cake-like treat that is baked with fresh dough.
The gooey, cheesy treat originated in Yakima in the 1950s, and the city remains one of the few spots where you can find scratch-made Cheese Zombies anywhere in the nation. In downtown Yakima, local spot Big Girls Bakery makes batches of the local cheesy good, though they are only available on Fridays.
For another local staple, check out Mel’s Diner. The retro-eatery has been serving up diner fare for breakfast and lunch since 1982.
As the day draws to a close, downtown Yakima has a few fantastic restaurants for a memorable dinner. Turn to Crafted for a meal made from entirely local ingredients. The restaurant changes its menu seasonally—sometimes daily—to reflect the produce and protein available from the surrounding Yakima Valley throughout the year.
For dishes with modern flare, check out E.Z. Tiger. The eatery focuses on dim sum and noodle dishes that it says celebrate the “flavors of the Pacific Rim”. You can expect high-grade seafood plates alongside steamed buns, steak and bright-flavored cocktails.
While you’re in downtown Yakima, there are two local gems that are absolute must-stops. First, the Yakima Greenway is a 20-mile long trail that connects different communities in Yakima Valley. You can access the greenbelt trail on the eastern borders of downtown Yakima for a highly enjoyable walk along the Yakima River.
Finally, make sure you’re in downtown Yakima on Sunday mornings to take full advantage of the Downtown Yakima Farmers Market. The Yakima Valley is a lush region teeming with farmland, and that is reflected in this farmers market. Held beginning in the spring and running into early fall, farm stands at the market include everything from local mushrooms, wildflowers and more berries than you could ever imagine. If you’re in town during the Downtown Yakima Farmers Market season, it’s a stop you won’t want to miss.
Swing by these sites to document your trip to Yakima.
Yakima Area Arboretum
Situated on 46 acres of land, the Yakima Area Arboretum is a greenspace that dreams are made of. Explore the grounds and stop to enjoy some of the arboretum’s highlights, including a rose garden, giant sequoias and a stroll along the banks of the Yakima River.
Open for more than half a century, Lariat Bar-B-Q on the edge of downtown Yakima is a nostalgic diner serving up a classic menu of pulled pork sandwiches, burgers and hot dogs. The real highlight of the experience, though, is Lariat Bar-B-Q’s iconic neon sign featuring a smiling cowgirl and her lasso.
Teapot Dome Service Station
About 20 minutes south of Yakima, you can find an entirely unique and charming teapot building that is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The Teapot Dome Service Station was formerly an operation gas station, first built in 1922, but now serves as a fun tourist attraction for visitors to the Yakima Valley.
Worth the Drive – Rattlesnake Hills
If you drive south from Yakima city limits and into the remote stretches of the valley, you’ll eventually find yourself in a region known as Rattlesnake Hills. This area of Washington has something for everyone, and some absolutely bonkers roadside attractions make this trip well worth your time.
In Sunnyside, a town about a 30-minute drive from the city of Yakima, an adventurous beer tourist will find themselves rewarded with a stop in at Varietal Beer Co. This particular brewery is an IPA-lovers paradise, as the craft brewery utilizes local hop fields to create bright and expressive ales that explode with fresh hop flavors.
The Yakima Valley isn’t just known for its hops, though. In fact, Yakima Valley in 1983 became the first American Viticultural Area in the state of Washington, meaning it is a designated wine grape growing region. Everywhere you turn in Yakima Valley, there are sprawling vineyards crossing over the horizon.
Winemakers in this area are as innovative as the brewers, and Yakima Valley has garnered a reputation as one of the most intriguing wine regions in America outside of California.
There are no shortage of wine tours you can take in the Rattlesnake Hills area, but we recommend exploring the local vineyards via horseback. A couple of different horseback stables in the area provide this service to tourists, including Cherry Wood Horse Rescue and Barn and the Yakima Valley Carriage Co. Take in the crisp valley air and enjoy an unbeatable wine tour on horseback—what is better than that?
You should indulge your curiosity throughout your travels along the Rattlesnake Hills, as many of the area’s small towns have hidden gems sprinkled about.
As mentioned earlier in this article, the Teapot Dome Service Station in Zillah is an unmissable photo opportunity, as well as an opportunity to enjoy historical architecture. But how would you also like to hang out with some dinosaurs?
Just 10 minutes south of Zillah, the Hisey Dinosaur Park in Granger is a roadside attraction featuring dozens of statues of dinosaurs. The first statue was built in 1993 to attract tourists to the town (mission achieved!) and the local population kept building more and more dinosaur statues as the years went on.
You’ll find dinosaur statues around Hisey Park in Granger hanging out on the playground, coming out of the pond and even bursting out of buildings. Take some time out of your day to try and find them all!
Finally, if you’re feeling very adventurous then you should consider driving out to Prosser, Washington, to experience the inexplicable oddity known only as Gravity Hill.
At this mysterious spot, you’ll find a marking on the road directing you where to stop your car. If you shift your car into neutral in this spot, you will begin to appear to drift uphill in your car, against the laws of gravity. This phenomenon has to be experienced to believe!
This spot is hard to find, but the hill can be found a little more than 10 miles north of Prosser on North Crosby Road. The spot to park your car in neutral is marked on the road—conveniently next to an allegedly haunted grain elevator.
Interact with the map below to navigate to every stop mentioned in this article, and have fun exploring Yakima!