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Winterhop Brewfest: 35 Breweries + 15 Venues = a One-of-a-kind Experience

Ellensburg is a city of over 18,000 people in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains that  presents travelers with a beautiful escape from everyday life. The city is roughly 100 miles southeast of Seattle and invites visitors to discover its breathtaking scenery, fun-filled festivals, unique dining, and more.


Winterhop Brewfest has been showcasing the finest beers and breweries from the Pacific Northwest since its inception in 2004. It features a structure unlike other craft beer events because it’s spread out over 15 venues in downtown Ellensburg. Patrons will encounter a beer lover’s paradise with beers and ciders from over 35 breweries and producers. Each venue will feature live music from local and regional acts, and every paid entry gets a five-ounce tasting glass. The event is also a haven for foodies with 20 different restaurants located nearby and three food trucks serving up a variety of meals. Winterhop Brewfest is a fundraiser for the non-profit Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce, which uses the funds to help put on community events throughout the year. We interviewed Monica Cumiskey, Event Coordinator for Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce to talk about the event.


RAL: How long has the event been running?

MC: The event was founded in 2004, so this will be the 13th year!


RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?

MC: We draw 1,700 guests into Ellensburg.


RAL: What is the typical demographic makeup of the event?

MC: Our crowd typically includes craft beer lovers, men and women ages 21+. Most of our attendees are somewhere between their late 20’s to 55 and older.


RAL: What makes this event unique?

MC: This event is unique because it takes place in the middle of January and the setup is completely different than any other craft beer festival. There are more than 15 venues in downtown Ellensburg that participate and house breweries from all over the Pacific Northwest. Guests stop by the different venues to taste beers. Some of the venues include a car dealership, restaurants, clothing boutiques, art galleries, and more!


RAL: Take me through a day at the event.

MC: The event starts at noon and runs until 5:00 pm. The streets are full of craft beer lovers, hopping from venue to venue. The vibe is beery and cheerful!


RAL: Are there any special activities?

MC: Yes, we will have live music at each venue.


RAL: What dining options will attendees encounter?

MC: There are over 20 restaurants and three food trucks in downtown Ellensburg, and many of these restaurants put on specials for WinterHop goers.


RAL: What can an attendee expect to find for local lodging?

MC: There are a few Bed & Breakfast’s and Airbnb rentals available, but mostly hotels and motels.


RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?

MC: Yes it does. This event was created to bring in revenue to our local economy during a time of the year when sales are low for our local businesses. That is why the event is set up in the downtown venues. We bring over 1,700 people into the storefronts during January to increase sales for local businesses, restaurants, and hotels.


RAL: Does the event support a particular cause in the community?

MC: The Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit and Ellensburg WinterHop BrewFest is a great fundraiser for us. The funds from this event allow us to continue to put on community events in our county such as Kruisin’ Kittitas Car Show and Burnouts (Second Saturday in August), the Cle Elum Pioneer Days Parade (4th of July Weekend), Bite of the Burg (the day before classes start for CWU students), and the Roslyn Mountain Ale Festival (Second Saturday in October).


RAL: Why should people come to your event?

MC: The Ellensburg WinterHop BrewFest is a one-of-a-kind festival that invites breweries from around the Pacific Northwest to pour their beers in various downtown businesses and venues. This snow-or-shine event gives beer lovers access to over 35 breweries with the best brews, and live music at each venue.


For more information about the Winterhop Brewfest, please visit their website.