KENNEWICK, Wash. - Washington's wine industry is big business but grapes seem to be stealing the spotlight from hops. Beer production is also thriving. About 75% of the nation's hops are produced right in our backyard.
Ice Harbor Brewing Company has been keeping glasses full for 16 years now. They're primary location is on N. Benton Street in Kennewick and that is also the site of their brewery. Their most popular brew is the IPA.
To make it, carefully weighed grains are milled and crushed. Then you 'mash.' The grains are mixed with water in the mash tun at temperatures reaching 160 degrees.
"At that temperature, there's enzymes in the mash and the grain that will start to convert the starches in the grain to sugar," said head brewer Russ Corey.
Then hot water is run through the grain bed, sort of like a coffee filter. That extracts the sugars so they can later be fermented.
"We pump it into our brew kettle and that takes about two hours to do and then we boil for about 90 minutes to two hours," Corey said.
During the boil, the hops are added. A special (and secret) concoction for all of their brews. After hops is a whirlpool for a half hour in the kettle. Then the liquid is pumped into the fermenter while it's chilled to about 70 degrees.
The whole brew process takes close to eight hours and two more weeks before it's ready to drink.
Co-owner Mike Hall said the popular India Pale Ale is a hoppy but well balanced brew.
"It's a great beer, a world class beer. It can compete with any IPA out there," Hall said.
"It's a challenge. You always keep learning more and you always try to keep getting better at it. And at the same time, you've got an end product that people enjoy. And I enjoy it too," Corey said.
More people are also getting into the home brew business. Ice Harbor Brewing Company is also home to a full service home brew store.