Duo see frothy future for Yakima breweries

By Mai Hoang, Yakima Herald RepublicNovember 10, 2008 

YAKIMA -- Jeff Winn is a recent transplant to Yakima, but his love for the area is nothing new.

Winn, who spent 20 years working in senior management in the technology sector, spent his spare time drinking beer and making it at home.

For him, Yakima is ground zero for good beer, as the area supplies at least 75 percent of the nation's hops.

On his 40th birthday, he decided to get out of the tech business and realize his dream to start a brewery. He relocated to Yakima from Portland.

"Where we are is important," Winn said. "Yakima means everything to the beer business. Why (aren't) there more breweries? Why not go to the source?"

Winn met partner Chris Swedin through mutual contacts. The pair renovated a manufacturing space at 2920 River Road, a few blocks from where the street intersects with Fruitvale Boulevard, and opened the Yakima Craft Brewing Co. in June.

The arrival of a new brewery is a long-awaited occurrence for local beer lovers, especially those who still lament the loss of Yakima's lone brewery.

In 1982, Scottish native Bert Grant established Yakima Brewing & Malting Co. The brewery became nationally acclaimed for brews such as Grant's Scottish Ale.

Grant also formed Grant's Brewery Pub, the first brew pub in the nation since Prohibition. A brew pub is a restaurant where beer is made on-site.

For some, the loss of the local brewery and brew pub began in 1995, when Grant sold both to Stimson Lane Vineyards & Estates, now Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. Stimson Lane later sold the business to Paul Brown and Greg Tranum in 2001.

Under Brown and Tranum, the company faced financial problems, leading to the closure of the brewery and brew pub at the end of 2005.

Swedin brewed beer at Grant's Brewery Pub, which was located at the old train depot in downtown Yakima.

"There was a lot of general disappointment (when Grant's closed)," Swedin said.

Central Washington does not lack breweries -- there are ones nearby in Prosser, Sunnyside and Ellensburg. And there are more in the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla.

But for local beer lovers, it didn't make sense that Yakima, which was located in the backyard of the majority of America's hop supply, lacked a craft brewery or brew pub.

According to the Brewers Association, a craft brewery is one that is small, independent and traditional. Craft brewers are known for having a process that focuses on flavor and complexity rather than volume.

Yakima should be supporting multiple breweries, said Ralph Olson, general manager and partner at Hopunion LLC, a hop warehouse, seller and processor that specializes in the craft brewing industry.

"We're bigger than Prosser, Sunnyside and Ellensburg," he said.

Yakima Craft Brewing distributes to restaurants throughout the Yakima area and also bottles its beers to sell at retail shops such as Wray's Food & Drug.

It started brewing a pale ale and eventually developed three other varieties -- an IPA, an amber ale and a Scottish ale. It also is working on seasonal varieties such as a Belgian ale in the style of ones made in breweries of the Trappists, a monastic order.

"We don't want to be Anheuser-Busch," Winn said. "We're in it for the beer. It's enough for us to have a good fan base for our product."

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