Hops are the spirit of beer, and now the craft beer movement is giving new impetus to the global hop market. More and more new breeds of “green gold” are not only lending beers a tangy, bitter flavor, but are also opening up a whole new range of aromas.
It seems as though the whole industry has hop fever. Since ever greater numbers of consumers started acquiring a taste for unusual craft beers, brewers have been requesting special aroma hops from their suppliers. To meet international demand, cultivation areas are currently growing in size around the world. Not only in German growing regions, but primarily on the other side of the Atlantic, new varieties are coming onto the market each year, giving creative craft brewers opportunity to experiment.
Hop fever first broke out in the USA. In 2013, there was still an equal proportion of aroma and bitter varieties there, with a roughly 50-50 split in terms of cultivation area. In the past year, however, bitter crops lost ground considerably and the proportion of aroma varieties stood at 78%—and these are continuing to follow an upward trend. After decades of stagnation, an increasing number of growers here at home are now waking up to the trend and choosing creative new varieties. Johan Pichlmair, President of the German Association of Hop Growers, confirmed the trend: “The craft beer scene is currently the driving force of the local hop market.”
Experts at the Hop Research Center Hüll started concentrating on special hybrids early on, in order to offer innovative brewers around the world a new playing field. Almost one hundred hybrids are now created per year in the vicinity of Wolnzach, Upper Bavaria, in the Hallertau hop-growing region. This is largely done with one goal in mind: To continue producing classic aroma varieties with typical hop characteristics as well as robust, powerful high-alpha varieties that are primarily used in bitter, tangy beers. Producers also have to satisfy the ever-growing appetite of craft brewers with breeds of fruity, floral “Special Flavor Hops.”
The result of this is that German hop growers are having to replant their traditional fields. Even cultivation areas for the most popular bitter variety, “Magnum,” have been reduced by almost 7%, while the spicy, high-alpha variety “Taurus”—the higher the alpha acid in hops, the more bitter the beer—experienced a staggering reduction of almost 25% in 2016. In their place, new aroma varieties such as “Hüll Melon,” “Hallertauer Blanc,” and “Mandarina Bavaria” are seeing rapid growth. Last year, cultivation rose by around 70% compared with 2015.
The craze for hops is also seeing regions not typically known for hop growing starting to cultivate this green gold more extensively. This has recently been increasingly evident on the east coast of the USA and in Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt in Germany. The largest hop supplier in the world is the Barth-Haas Group based in Hallertau, Bavaria.
Visitors to drinktec 2017 can drop by the Barth-Haas stand to find out more about hops, sniff the new aroma varieties, and of course enjoy the creative beers at place2beer. There will also be presentations and discussions at place2beer on engaging topics such as food and beer, women and beer, popular styles of beer, packaging and branding, and the development of the hop market. Find out more in the drinktec 2017 events program.