Yakima Fresh Hop Fest – strong showing for WA brewers

Saturday we attended the Yakima Fresh Hop Ale Festival. We’ve included some pictures below. 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 fromĀ  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.

Here are some pictures from the event. Click on an image to see it full size. Use your browser’s Back button to return to the gallery.


  1. Definitely my favorite beer festival in the state. I’m a little biased since I grew up there, but I think this festival has the most amount of beers I really, really like.

  2. This Oregonian was at the Hood River Fresh Hop Fest. Too bad they are both on the same day. I want to congratulate Russ and the rest of the brew crew at Ice Harbor for their well deserved win. I frequent Ice Harbor, which, until the opening of The Prodigal Son in Pendleton, was the closest brewery to me. Congrats again Ice Harbor!

  3. “… Laughing Dog Brewing is in Sandpoint, which is just barely Idaho”. On the contrary, both Laughing Dog and Sandpoint are very proudly IDAHO!

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