Hop Blossom A New Shenandoah Valley Tradition

There was a time when most Americans drank their apples—cider, hard or sweet, was the beverage of convenience for early Americans. In fact, planting apple trees was a required part of staking a claim in parts of the young nation. So it seems only fitting that the valley known for its apples is becoming the valley known for quality craft brews—with a festival to celebrate the connection.

June 16 from noon till 6pm is the third annual Hop Blossom Craft Beer Festival in Old Town Winchester, organized by Beth and Mark Yates. Beth is the president and founder of one of the festivals benefactors, www.GoodDogz.org, a non-profit website dedicated to educating potential dog owners. Proceeds from pre-sale and day-of festival ticket sales benefits the mission of www.GoodDogz.org, as well as the Winchester-Frederick-Clarke SPCA.

Last year, the two entities evenly split $11,000 in proceeds. Mark Bates expects an increase based upon the support of the festival; last year there were about 3,000 guests.

It’s a fundraiser, but the festival is designed for craft beer aficionados. Organizers search high and low for unfamiliar beers to expose festival goers to something new. “We try to have at least one style from each brewery that’s not commonly available,” said Mark. “We look more for ones that are special or that you might not otherwise come across. About half of the breweries at previous festivities have come from the state.”

This year, there will be beers and ales from about 40 breweries, with some ciders and possibly Belgians being featured as well. The list of breweries has not been finalized, but is expected to be complete a week prior to the event.

Hop Blossom Festival is the closing day of the popular Winchester’s Craft Beer Week, which runs seven days prior to the Hop Blossom Festival. Winchester Craft Beer Week is a premier series of craft beer events held at restaurants and craft beer shops in Winchester. Each venue will offer a different craft beer and  host an event featuring that brewery.

The week includes “tap takeovers,” where an outlet will carry one brewery’s beer on tap and other craft beer-related events. More on Winchester Craft Beer Week is at winchestercraftbeerweek.com.

On the day of Hop Blossom, anyone wishing to taste a beer must purchase a ticket. Tickets are on sale now for $25, which includes a commemorative cup, ten 4-ounce tastings and live entertainment. Tickets are also available for VIP attendees at $75 and VIP designated drivers at $40.

Learn more about the festival or make a donation to help homeless animals atwww.HopBlossom.com . Ticket sales end on June 12.