The Yakima Valley grows over 75 percent of the nation’s hops, so it only makes sense that the area is becoming a bit of a craft beer mecca. The valley is home to more than 10 craft breweries, all utilizing their own estate-grown hops or local hops from their neighbors who raised them. But their locations are a little spread out.
Because of the distance between breweries, tackling a full afternoon of craft beer tasting has pretty been much impossible, until now. Enter: The Little Hopper.
Wendy King launched The Little Hopper in September as a way to introduce craft beer lovers to the breweries in Yakima, along with a goal of keeping people safe while drinking. According to King, it’s also become a great way to honor the entire hop industry, showcasing both farmers and brewers.
“There was a need for locals and visitors to experience all of the local taprooms and breweries,” she says. “They’re pretty spread out, making each of them a destination. I wanted people to experience each of these unique places, while providing safety between breweries.”
Craft beer lovers can now hop on The Little Hopper bus at any point from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. King alternates between two routes every week, with each route highlighting four or five local breweries throughout the day.
“I thought about what the beer industry needed,” King says. “I wanted something that people would be excited to jump on and ride. The whole thing is an experience.”
The Little Hopper takes the rock-paper-scissors game out of the equation when it comes to finding a designated driver. It allows everyone in a group to join in the experience and taste at multiple breweries, while eliminating the worry of drinking and driving between any location.
And this new public transportation method devoted to beer is as easy as can be. Hoppers can go online and buy their day pass for the Hop On – Hop Off shuttle route, choosing which brewery they’re going to start at. Each rider can leave their car at the first brewery they choose, ride The Little Hopper from place to place throughout the afternoon and ultimately end up back where they started as King makes her craft beer trail loop.
“Part of the fun is that you don’t need a big group or to book it privately,” says King, “I want people to come on and find new friends, to meet other beer lovers just like them.”