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Snipes brewmaster walks away with top honors at Yakima fresh hop fest

Snipes Mountain Brewery's Chris Miller can stick a feather in his cap. The Sunnyside brewmaster walked away with first-place honors from the seventh annual Fresh Hop Festival in Yakima last weekend.

It's believed that this is the first time a Washington state entry has earned such accolades at the festival.

There are usually 15 brews on tap at Snipes, including the winning brew, Harvest Ale.

"This is the first time someone in the state has won at that level," the brewmaster said. "I was really happy I won that thing."

Miller brought home second-place honors last year. "I was so jazzed about that so this year I'm even more stoked."

Miller said the competition is a friendly one. Eighteen breweries were represented at the event, including Laughing Dog from Ponderay, Idaho, which has won the prestigious award the past three years in a row. "It's a totally fun competition that we have," Miller said.

Miller said living in the heart of hop country is a blessing. To make a fresh hop brew, which is using hops that are not put in the kiln and are still green, the hops must be made into beer within 24 hours of picking. "Otherwise they start degrading," Miller said.

In Miller's case, because he lives here in the heart of the Yakima Valley, he's able to make fresh hop brew within roughly 45 minutes of getting the hops. "I just drive to Granger, pick up hops, come right back and use them. I'm blessed to do that. There's a lot of people around the country that wish they could do that. It's totally unique."

Miller said the Yakima Valley alone provides 77 percent of the country's hops.

The winning blend, he said, contains Simcoe and Citra hop varieties.

In terms of taste, Miller said, "It just makes a really fresh, hoppy character without being bitter. It's fruity and aromatic with a fresh hop smell.

"It's a pretty tasty beer. Even my wife likes it and she doesn't drink beer."

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