The Soul of Beer

Hops - The Soul of Beer
Hops - The Soul of Beer (Photo Credit: Elena Hasenbeck)

Cascade, Callista or Mandarina Bavaria: Water already starts to run in the mouth of craft brewers and beer lovers when they hear these names. Hops are one of the key ingredients in creative beers. In addition, new and exciting new varieties are being launched on the market just now.

After years of standstill, the global hops markets are experiencing increasing dynamics. Following the example of American experts who have grown new varieties of hops and craft brewers who have experimented with special flavors, other countries are now following suit. The professionals in the Hüll Hop Research Center near Wolnzach in Hallertau have been creating special crossbreeds for a long time to provide creative brewers with exciting possibilities.

However, why are hops so important in beer? Its ingredients not only contribute spicy-bitter, tart or even fruity taste. They additionally have calming, conserving and foam-stabilizing properties. The trend is accordingly—mainly thanks to the craft beer movement—to new aroma varieties.

Following Mandarina Bavaria, Hüll Melon, Polaris and Hallertauer Blanc, which were used especially often for brewing last year, there are more new German varieties with highly aromatic nuances this brewing season. Seventy-two new crossbreeds were developed alone in Hull last year. One of the latest varieties is called “Callista”. It is characterized by large and elongated umbels that contribute the flavor of a multivitamin cocktail in the mash. Another variety from Hallertau is called “Ariana”. They give beers an aroma with floral notes of geranium, but also with fruity notes of grapefruit, lemon, blackcurrant and gooseberry. They also make beer really tart.

However, not only Hallertau, which is second largest cultivation area in the world after the United States, is breeding new varieties of hops. In eastern Germany for example, Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt are together promoting the planting of new umbels in a test cultivation area in fields near Monstab in Altenburger Land. Hop farmer Christian Berthold started to grow four aromatic varieties two years ago, which he wants to make competitive with the popular US hops.

Incidentally, hops are a plant species of the hemp family. They belong to the variety of climbing plants and are grown on five to eight meter high wire racks to develop their full splendor. Only the female plants bear the precious umbels. They contain the resins and essential oils, which give the beer flavor and bouquet. Those who want to be enchanted by the wonderful aroma of umbels should absolutely travel to one of the hop-growing areas such as the Hallertau in the coming weeks. The plants are there in all their splendor, and the harvest will begin in a few weeks.

Mareike Hasenbeck

Mareike Hasenbeck is a freelance journalist with her own craft beer blog (Feiner Hopfen), she is also a beer sommelier and an international expert for beer sensory certified by the DLG (German Agricultural Society).