If you’re new to Yakima, one thing you’ll very quickly notice in this town is that we love our booze. If it’s not wineries, it’s bars. If it’s not bars, it’s breweries. Yakima Valley has over ten breweries, but when you consider the entirety of Central Washington, that number rockets. The breweries in our area house many of the locally brewed beers that our region specializes in, as one of the top hop contributors in the United States.
All of Yakima County’s breweries have their own personal charm, but the only problem is having so many breweries and so little time. However, a versatile and exciting new solution to this problem is Yakima Valley’s Little Hopper.
The Little Hopper, among its other services, is a beer bus with routes that travel to several different breweries throughout the valley. It’s a fun and safe way to try out all of the unique beers and drafts in the city. Two main routes make up the Hop On-Hop Off Beer Shuttle tours, each hosting specific breweries. The West Route stops include Bron Yr Aur Brewing, Cowiche Creek Brewing, Valley Brewing, and Hop Capital Brewing. On the East Route, you’ll head to Bale Breaker Brewing, Single Hill Brewing, Wandering Hop Brewery, and 5th Line Brewing.
Wendy King, owner and founder of the Little Hopper, began shaping and molding her idea of having a shuttle bus into a legitimate business in 2019, only six months before the COVID-19 pandemic. King saw the changing winds of modern-day drinking, which now is passengered by a sense of community, casual enjoyment, and a unique generational congregation. “Breweries are changing the landscape of how we’re communicating – how we’re drinking beer,” King explained.
She compared what we see in drinking establishments today to what she saw in her youth and noted the stark differences between the two. To King, “you drank, and you danced, back then, rather than experiencing today’s new cultural phenomenon.”
King worked tirelessly to keep her budding business afloat as COVID-19 mandates closed the breweries they would travel to and prevented multiple people in a vehicle at once. However, her company was only temporarily halted and far from diminished like many others during that time.
In an effort to expand her business, King proposed a versatile idea to offer shuttles that underwent wine routes. Called the Grapevine Shuttle, a maximum of 12 guests can set out to wineries throughout Yakima, Prosser, and Zillah. Along with the new wine routes, various other promising fresh events will occur this summer. Friday after-work routes, Ellensburg-specific tours, and additionally, routes that stop at Yakima hotels and visit more prominent locations in the city center are in motion. King intends on having routes prioritizing Yakima visitors to give them the ability to see some of the popular locations in town, all at a lower price than you would see with a typical Uber.
Locals, however, are as big of a part of The Little Hopper as they always were. Locals and visitors alike can share a bus together and stop at their choice of breweries. You’ll be able to take a spontaneous trip to one of the listed breweries or vineyards or make a request to stop at any of the new ones popping up elsewhere in the county throughout the summer. King acknowledged that as we emerge from the pandemic, our hop capital will continue to blossom with new businesses, and The Little Hopper will be there to adapt to them.
The Little Hopper offers not only the mainstream Hop On-Hop Off shuttles but also corporate or private tours and guided beer tours. At this time, the guided beer tours are still being modified to work in accordance with the guest’s luxury in mind. Upon its completion, taprooms and breweries will both be able to be visited through Central Washington. In the meantime, book a ride for any of the other enticing shuttles and have a day in the sun exploring Yakima County and sipping from exclusive taps and brews that you won’t find anywhere else in the state.