Showcasing local eats, brews, musicians and businesses at Winterhop Brewfest


Alex pouring beer. Photo by Andrew Ulstad

Omar Benitez, Senior Reporter

Locals and travelers alike gathered in the streets of downtown Ellensburg for a taste of local brews at this year’s edition of the Winterhop Brewfest on Feb. 25. 

This year marked the 19th edition of the festival, and this year’s festival had 26 breweries with brews on tap spread over 11 different venues across the downtown area. Venues were all located conveniently within a three block radius from each other.

According to Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce Director of Tourism & Events Matt Anderson, the goal of the multi-venue set up is to get people to check out local venues.

“The festival is important for the downtown businesses because it gets people into these local businesses that they otherwise might not go to,” Anderson said. “It’s also important for the breweries and entertainers because they get some exposure, so it’s good for everyone.”

The full list of venues included Kelleher Motors, the Toy Stable, Gallery-One, Evolve, Gard Vintners, Claim Clothing, Flirt, The Recycle Shop, the Hotel Windrow, Enchantment Brewery and the Ellensburg Downtown Association.

All 26 participating breweries are from Washington, and many came from all over the state, including breweries from Yakima, Spokane, Tacoma, Walla Walla, Moses Lake, Pulman and other cities.

Some of the participating breweries included Ellensburg’s own Enchantment Brewery, Iron Horse Brewery, Whipsaw Brewery, Ellensburg Brewing Co and Wheel Line Cider, as well as Cle Elum’s Mule & Elk Brewing Co. and Dru Bru. Breweries from all around Washington were also included, like Ten Pin Brewing, Burwood Brewing and Icicle Brewing among many more.

Each venue varied in the number of breweries they hosted, some having just one brewery, while others had up to five. 

Many of these breweries are long time participants of the brewfest like Whipsaw Brewing, Wandering Hop Brewery and Icicle Brewing. For others such as Doghaus Brewing, Hellbent Brewing and Lumberbeard Brewing, this year was their first time attending the festival. 

“This is our first time here, and it’s been great,” said Lumberbeard Brewery Sales Representative Conner Desmond. “I just love the camaraderie of an event like this. We’re at a local business, we’re drinking beer from a local small craft brewery, we’ve got a local band playing, and everyone’s just out and enjoying their weekend.”

Many of the brewers said it’s all about being able to share what they make with others.

Whipsaw Brewing manager and CWU graduate Karley Bentler said, “We’ve had a lot of people come up to us and say ‘we love whipsaw, we love your beer,’ so it’s just awesome to be able to share our beer with everyone.”

This festival not only showcases local breweries, but it also showcases local musicians. Each venue featured live music performances, with a total of 11 local artists and bands. 

One of the performers is a Cle Elum local and CWU graduate Justin Rui, who also performed at last year’s Winterhop Brewfest.

“It’s been awesome, man, I came out here to be able to perform for everyone …  It’s been a great experience,” Rui said.

Other performers at this year’s brewfest included Birdie Fernn Cent, Micah J and Chance Richardson, with many more.

The event’s headquarters, located in Unity Park on Pearl St., had two food vendors: Big Dogs Grill selling gourmet hotdogs and The Corn Dog Company selling homemade corn dogs.

This year also marked the first time brewfest was fully indoors since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Anderson.

Tickets for the event sold for $45 which included a commemorative Ellensburg Rodeo taster glass. Some tickets were also sold for $60, and included everything the $45 ticket offered,  plus early access and a bag filled with Winterhop Brewfest merchandise.

All proceeds of this event go to help fund various programs in the chamber, Anderson said.