Hops A-Z; Y is for Yakima Valley

This A-Z has travelled around the world and mentioned most of the key hop producing areas. Now it's time to profile the powerhouse of the American hop industry; the Pacific NorthWest, Washington State and Yakima Valley.

Beneath the Cascade mountains, the Yakima Valley has been producing hops since the late nineteenth century. The combination of desert heat, fertile mountain slopes and irrigation from the Yakima river combine to give the valley an ideal climate for crop production. 75% of US hop acreage and 77% of production is based here. And it's not just about the hops – Yakima farms also grow fruit, grapes and row crops.

There are three distinct areas in the valley, each with unique characteristics. To the South, the Lower Yakima Valley is the warmest with crops growing so quickly that yields can be attained in the first year of planting. In the Yakima Indian Reservation, wide open spaces are blocked out with large acre farms growing high alpha hops. Moxee Valley is the most northerly area, colder than the others and renowned for its high density of aroma hop producers.

It's not all about quantity, either, although two-thirds of production feed the lucrative hop export market. A rich variety of hops are grown in the Yakima Valley such as Willamette, Cascade and Mount Hood for aroma; Columbus-Tomahawk-Zeus, Nuggett and Galena for alpha acid.

Major producers such as Yakima Chief and Hopunion offer a bottom-to-top hop service, not just growing and harvesting them but managing the processing, storage and logistics of whole flower and pelleted products. Here's where I believe Yakima's real success stems from; the marriage of ability, opportunity and sheer belief. Although I'm inherently dubious about vision/mission statements, I love Hopunion's - "To have our hops in every craft brew kettle in the world". After all, why aim low?

When we talk of Yakima hops such as Simcoe, Warrior, Amarillo, Columbus, Tomahawk and Zeus, we're talking about the products of experimentation and research. Of continued development and investment, borne of a desire to ensure reliability whilst still innovating. Those are Yakima qualities to be admired as much as the aroma and bittering of their hops.


  1. If the name was good enough for Brendan Dobbin, it's good enough for me.

    I'll be visiting Oregon in a month so hope to see some of the hops - but more importantly drink some of 'em where they're grown.

  2. "Columbus-Tomahawk-Zeus... for alpha acid"

    Erm... not really!

    CTZ is a dual-purpose hop and is probably one of the most immediately recognisable hops in the world owing to it's skunky, raw hop-oil aroma and taste.

    Yes, it's good for bittering, but it's mainly used for flavour and aroma.

  3. My interpretation comes from the Hop Growers of America and the Barth-Hass Group categorising CTZ as 'super-high-alpha' or 'bitter/high-alpha' and recognising it as the main alpha provider in US hops.