Originally published in January 2018
Local beer lovers were sad to see Yakima Craft Brewing Co.’s downtown taproom close last February. Some even wondered if closing the Yakima Avenue establishment was a sign that the oldest active brewery in town was slowing down.
Eleven months later, it’s apparent that the business is in great shape — and still growing.
Yakima Craft introduced a new, much larger taproom at 2920 River Road on Jan. 13, adjacent to its production facility and tasting room. Now, the only question is how popular the new establishment will become.
“After we closed the downtown location, people weren’t real happy,” said Jayson Workman, the company’s operations manager who led the effort to remodel the former Yakima Indoor Soccer Association facility, a 6,000-square-foot space that was already connected to the brewery.
“But now they are seeing why. Some people have even told us they’re sorry they didn’t believe in us. It’s been cool for our customers to see our vision come to fruition.”
Workman said that while Yakima Craft enjoyed having a presence downtown for two years, the venture didn’t prove as lucrative as the former owner had hoped.
Owners JT and Amy Quast, who purchased the company from Jeff Winn last year, decided it made more sense to expand their existing facility and cater to a slightly different clientele. They hired Workman and Tim Butterfield, the marketing and sales director, and then embarked on a rebranding campaign.
They introduced a new logo, a new color scheme and new cans last year, all of which are ever-present at the River Road facility. They began work on the taproom in November and did most of the work themselves, aside from the plumbing, electrical and concrete work.
“We did this all in a matter of months,” Workman said. “There’s still some work to do, but it’s starting to look like what we envisioned.”
Another change was making the new taproom open to people of all ages. And with a wide assortment of leisure games available, the kids won’t be bored.
Patrons can choose from foosball, shuffleboard, darts, ping pong and cornhole. There’s also a stage set up for live music and some TVs to watch sporting events.
“We’re looking to be much more of a hangout than a bar,” Workman said. “We hope that by offering games and music, people will have a new reason to come check us out.”
At the same time, the core product is intended to be the primary draw for customers.
The taproom will be serving 24 beers at one time — 12 from Yakima Craft and 12 guest taps — along with some ciders and a small menu of beer-inspired selections, such as Black and Tan onion rings, beer-battered fries and Yuengling wings. (Yuengling is the nation’s original craft brewery, located in Pottsville, Pa.; Yakima Craft was established in 2007.)
Among the guest breweries currently on tap are Hop Nation, Bale Breaker, Blewett, White Bluff, Whipsaw, Cowiche Creek and Valley Brewing Co., their River Road neighbors who opened in early December.
“We want to create an environment that welcomes everyone, but we’re still going to be centered around beer, because that’s what the Valley is known for,” Workman said.
“By having 12 guest taps, we wanted to show the community and out-of-town visitors that we support the other breweries in the area. We believe we’re all in this together.”
An added feature at the new taproom is the new bottoms-up pouring system, which Workman says creates the “perfect pour.”
The pint glasses have a hole with a metal washer in the bottom. The bartender presses the glass down onto the tap to fill the glass and a mini souvenir magnet seals the opening. (Just don’t press on the magnet when your pint is full!)
The taproom also sells Crowlers, a large to-go can similar to a Growler (a glass jug).
Each of these features serves Yakima Craft’s end goal of celebrating the region’s growing beer culture. They also want to give people a reason to visit the west end of town.
“We’d like to bring even more brew pubs over this way,” Workman said. “We call ourselves the River Road bandits.”