Down the street from Shelley’s house sits one of Yakima Valley’s favorite hangouts.  On an 80-degree afternoon, the first Friday of June, we met our good friend Chef Jessica Smith in a hop field, to pair her culinary creations with Bale Breaker Brewing Company‘s daily tap offerings.

Just outside of town off Highway 24 on the way to Moxee, the brewery was literally built in the middle of a Loftus Ranches hop field (field 41 to be exact).  Essentially the public area is a tasting room with a rockstar child friendly, dog friendly, good timin’ outdoor area.  There is no food available, so you can bring your own (or check the schedule and see what vittle vendor is there for the night).  This worked out perfect for us.

As I walked back onto the patio, Shelley, Aileen and Aileen’s dog Chuy, were already there, sitting under a warm, wide sky, green grass surrounding the patio, hops climbing the twine just on the other side of the fence.  While I have been to breweries where they are growing a token hop plant or two up a small trellis on an outdoor patio, these hops are the real deal.  The term farm-to-pint quickly moving from concept to visualized reality as you can stand there with your beverage looking from beer to hop vine.

Jessica showed up shortly after I, quickly unveiling a gorgeous apricot cherry pie, complete with a lattice top with a braid running through the middle.  Our mouths started watering right there.  Can we have dessert first?  Then came the basket of hatch chile pepper, cheddar, onion, and garlic bread, and a vegetable strewn quinoa tabbouleh salad.  We decided to sate our salivation first with a beer flight.  Eight beers from the Bale Breaker playbook later, we delved in.

The season is still early in terms of fresh produce availability, so we were lucky to have an ace up our sleeve.  Jessica is a hoarder of the chef variety.  She has six freezers.  Yup, six.  That means that we get to have cherry apricot pie made with local cherries and local apricots picked at their peak last year, whenever it strikes her fancy, like this day.  In the bread, the onions were from her garden, coming back from last year.  Her nephew grows heirloom tomatoes indoors which were in our salad.

We very unscientifically and unhurriedly sampled our beers while savoring lunch, the Saison and the Bottom Cutter coming in as the favorites of the day.  We sat there feeling full and fortunate.  This was just one afternoon, but we get to do this often.  We have all sat with a beer outside while our children run and play.  We’ve elbowed up at the bar and chatted with strangers or sat on the lawn imbibing with old friends.  There is a lovely informality here which lends itself to a true community experience.  Just another day in the Yakima Valley.

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