It was 2012, before kettle sours and barrel-aged beers took craft beer drinkers by the palate. Hops in craft beer were hitting the limelight, and we were (and still are) one of only few breweries who grow our own hops. The hop farm, Loftus Ranches, lured us back to Yakima when we realized the farm-to-table movement could apply to hops and craft beer just the same. We loved beer. We loved the farm. What better product than a farm-to-glass beer? What other brewery could say that with as much honesty and transparency as we could? Eager to craft beer for the masses, we put our heads together to dream up a perfect Pale Ale.
Slowly we began to craft what soon became our classic lineup of beers. Each beer is named after important icons of the hop farm and story that helped to build our brewery to what it is now: we are the fifth largest independent craft brewery in Washington State.
Now the name. We chose to call it a Pale Ale rather than a Session IPA on purpose. At the time a lot of the pale ales in the market were more malt-forward, so we decided we wanted to go in a different direction than how pale ales were known at that time. We wanted to make a drier, more aromatic pale ale than was typically sold in the market. Coming from the hop farm, being literally located in a hop field, it was natural for our beer to be hop-forward rather than malt-forward. We have always enjoyed beer with the fragrant hop aroma that we grew up loving, so that’s the type of beer that we decided to make. We’re glad that there are other people out there who feel the same.
3.5 acres of Loftus Ranches’ Hop Field #41 were taken out to become the 30-BBL production facility that is home of Bale Breaker today. This land didn’t come into our family until the early 2000’s, but it has a rich farming history. It is one of the oldest continually farmed pieces of land in the Yakima Valley, with hops first planted on this land in the late-1800’s, owned at the time by Alexander Graham Bell and his father-in-law, Gardiner Hubbard, under what was known as “The Moxee Company”. This land was established as an experimental farm to test all sorts of different crops (including hops, tobacco, and more) for their viability in the area. Because of that, the Moxee Company was responsible for bringing irrigation to this area of the Yakima Valley – the first canal in the Moxee area, in fact. Many area farmers still benefit from that decision, and the Hubbard Canal, today. A beautiful old farmhouse that was part of the Bell family still stands behind our brewery today, and it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
Our brewery and taproom are now housed in a big red building, which ties in perfectly with the red letters of the directional sign atop the hop trellis, calling out for all field workers and laborers of the hop farm: 4 1. 41. Hop field 41. Each hop farm has their own color combination for field signs that distinguishes one farm’s field from the next, and for decades, Loftus Ranches field signs have been identified by red numbers on a white background. So red is Field 41’s color.
Field 41 Pale Ale was created after many trials and failed attempts. We knew we wanted to create a pale ale and an IPA, so we spent 2011-2012 crafting all sorts of both. We tried everything imaginable to find the perfect product. From hops to water to yeast to malt bills, we tried it all. 125 10-gallon batches were brewed the year before we opened. During harvest of 2011, so many industry idols we respected came around while visiting the hop farm. They got to taste what became Field 41 and loved it, so we knew it had to stick around.
At some point last year, Field 41 became unavailable at some of the usual locations we sell to. Additionally, it’s a difficult beer to brew for a number of reasons, therefore the future of Field 41 is uncertain at this time. It would be the closing of one chapter and opening of another chapter to be sure.
We’re excited to move beyond the bounds of our classic beers and into new territories, like our soon-to-be-announced rotator IPA series! Do you love Field 41? Would it break your heart to see it go? Let us know!
Posted January 11, 2019