It is Friday night in Yakima and you are headed out with a few friends for a beer. But, where are you going for this beer? And what beer will you drink? If this sounds like something you and your friends might struggle with, don’t worry I am here to help! I have put together a list with my top three breweries in the Yakima Valley, explaining why they are my favorite and what my favorite beer is at each. Enjoy!

Iron Horse Brewery (IHB)

Iron Horse Brewery was my first real experience with craft beer, and it will always hold a spot on my favorites. IHB is located in the small college town of Ellensburg WA and has swiftly grown to be a recognized label across the state. As of 2013, IHB has become the 9th largest producer of beer in Washington.

Walking into Iron Horse Brewery’s “Pub” you will instantly feel at home, from the friendly staff offering free high-fives to the group of locals, who are always excited to share a beer with a newcomer. You will have a tough time leaving after just one pint. IHB has made their culture and values present in everything they do, from good beer, quality service, sarcastic remarks (both in person and in their marketing), and now even to their unique food menu! Their constantly changing menu is filled with food that is inspired by their beer; mixing bold and unique flavors into normal everyday food. My go-to beer at IHB is, and always will be their award-winning “Quilters Irish Death (QID),” pair that with their amazing “An Bratwurst,” which is poached in QID and topped with a special “IPA” mustard, and you are good to go.

Bale Breaker Brewing

Bale Breaker, located in Yakima WA, opened in April of 2013 with what is now a 27,000 square foot facility, it houses an onsite taproom and a 30-barrel production brewery. The owners of the brewery are all siblings from one of the oldest Hop farming families in Washinton. In the last year of the prohibition, the Smith family planted their first hops in the Yakima Valley, and it’s been tradition ever since.

Most evenings it is tough to find a place to sit at Bale Breaker, their patio and tasting room are always filled with locals and craft beer fanatics. Each night Bale Breaker invites a different local food truck down to provide food options for their customers. Some nights you may even find some live music from one of the many local musicians in the area. Bale Breaker is the real craft brewery experience; from the windows into the production facility to the smell of the beer brewing, not to mention being a great maker of beer. Because Bale Breaker has a never-ending rotation of their beers on tap, it makes it difficult to select a favorite, but if you can handle a solid IPA I highly recommend the “Bubba’s Brew IPA.”

Bron Yr Aur Brewing Co.

Bron Yr Aur, pronounced Bron Yar, is a small brewery located in Naches Washington and is home to one of the best pizzas in Washington. The brewery, which was started by the Hatten family in 2013, has since grown to be a local favorite for not only beer but for food and family outings. The Hatten’s, being of Welch descent, named the brewery after a 18thcentury cottage in Wales. The cottage, similar to the Bron Yr Aur in Naches, is surrounded by mountains and is secluded by nature.

In my opinion, what sets Bron Yr Aur apart is the location and the atmosphere that they have created. Instead of focusing on just beer drinkers, Bron Yr Aur has strived to provide a great experience for all ages. On a typical summer evening, it would be weird not to have a few dogs with their owners on the back patio and multiple families with their kids running on the grass. So if you are looking for a casual place to hang out, play with some dogs, get a good bite to eat, and enjoy a refreshing beer, then you have found the right place!

Here are a few insider tips to make sure you get the full Bron Yr Aur experience: 1) the Chicken Pesto pizza is amazing, 2) you have to try the Cheddar Jalapeno Tots with their homemade dipping sauce, 3) get a glass of the Scottish Ale, 4) bring some friends… dogs…kids and have a great time!

All in all, the Craft Beer scene is more than just beer… it is about building relationships and sharing a good beer with friends. So go have a beer with friends, enjoy each other’s company, put down the cell phones, and try something new. In the state of Washington alone there are 350+ different breweries… that’s a lot of beer to try… better get started!