Why Bale Breaker Wants to be ‘The Home Team’

When Bale Breaker began thinking about what to be as a brewery — which was to be a production-model focus — they did it with only the state of Washington in mind.

“The thought was always to try to emulate New Glarus,” said co-founder Kevin Quinn. “They sell a couple 100,000 barrels, but we didn’t have that much population. So we knew we were going to max out an expansion, we were going to have to expand that a little bit.”

The Yakima-based brewery is still primarily focused on its home state with some territory sales in nearby Idaho and Oregon.

“Obviously, the craft beer landscape has changed considerably in 10 years,” Quinn said during the brewery’s cover story interview with Brewer for the November/December 2023 issue. “I think the seasonality of just being in the Pacific Northwest, there’s a lot of beer sold in six months —  from spring to early fall. Then there’s a lot less beer sold from fall through winter.

“So figuring out a way to kind of even out those because we’ll brew at capacity (about 40,000 barrels). So we’ll brew 800 barrels a week for a couple of months in the summer. But then in the winter, we never brew 800 barrels a week. We’re at capacity for these small periods. We ended up having to add two more tanks this year with the new brands and we still filled that for a couple months, but the other 10 months, we’re not at capacity.”

READ MORE: Why Bale Breaker Added to Portfolio Instead of Reinventing Flagships

Opening at a time when there wasn’t much local beer being brewed east of the Cascade Mountains, yet many breweries would venture to the Yakima Valley for hop selection each year, the Smith family that owned the Loftus Ranches hop yards launched Bale Breaker with two brands and a small taproom.

“When we opened the taproom here, there wasn’t much of a beer scene here and we really didn’t think our taproom was gonna be very busy at all,” said co-founder Meghann Quinn. “We thought we were gonna be mainly distributed and our taproom … would do about $8,000 a month out of the taproom.

“We did that in the first couple of weeks and we’re like, ‘Oh, no.’”

The very first expansion done in the whole brewery was bigger bathrooms.

“The line to the bathrooms was always insane,” she said. “The whole grassy area was full of people.

In 2018 they added more outdoor space as well to let customers mingle in a row of hops that are right next to the taproom along with a larger indoor/outdoor space. Just last spring, they added a patio expansion with three firepits and more seating and shade.

“The taproom has gone through several different expansions over the years,” Meghann said, “just because it’s been far busier than we ever would have anticipated.”

The Yakima Valley got behind the brewery and helped lead the growth, Kevin Quinn said.

“I think they were wanting a product to get behind,” he said. “It’s kind of like your hometown team. They’re very excited to tell people they were from Yakima and that’s where Bale Breaker is. So I think people were wanting it. Monday through Thursday, it’s mostly just all locals and regulars, and Friday through Sunday, there’s a lot of tourists that come through.

“Yakima is very centrally located in the state … so you draw people from all over.”

Meghann has been on the Yakima Valley tourism board for almost all of the 10 years that they have been open to help promote the area as well.

“I think now, as we’ve been established, now I think it’s just it’s kind of organic and word of mouth,” Kevin Quinn said. “If you’ve got a big group, go to Bale Breaker.”

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