Unplanned and totally spontaneous, today we droved along the Hop (or Hopfen in Deutsch ) fields in the quiet hilly town of Wolnzach, Bavaria. Wolnzach is the heart of Hop producing Hallertau region ( or Upper Bavaria) and is also a known “seal district “( Siegelbezirk). One of the great thing about living in Ingolstadt is that it’s so easy to do a day trip or excursions, plus the notable cycling tours in the vicinity. Within half an hour drive, ( around 35 kms) we reached Wolnzach where the green lush fields came in sight. It’s pretty amazing just to see them up close and personal. Totally reminds me of the grape vineyards in Moselle! Hop fields on hills are normal landscape scenery here in Southern Germany , especially in the Hallertau region (Holledau) 50 km north from Munich. I’ve seen these fields many times along Autobahn and I wished that I could see them close-up, and today my wish came true.
The Hallertau region is the largest Hop- producing region in the world and they exist since 736!It’s no surprise why we have Oktoberfest and twice a year Beer festivals. There is no single occasion here that is not celebrated without Beer! Mind you, the beer culture here is so strong and has rooted itself as a cultural legacy. This is one of the first thing I embraced from the time we moved here. Did you know that aside from the home of Audi HQ, Ingolstadt is the birthplace of the Beer Purity Law. Now, seeing these endless Hops fields made me realize how on earth we were blessed to lived in a region were these “green golds” grew. I am not a drinker or beer enthusiast, but through time, I appreciate the value of this valued beverage like a noble Bavarian.
Here in Germany, we only need Hops, malt, yeast and water to brew Beer.This is what the Reinheitsgebot 1516 ( Beer Purity Law ) is all about. I already mentioned many times in my Blog that beer here is considered as “Food”and not an alcoholic drink. Our trip was just in time for harvest, the Hops that we’ve seen are almost all ready for harvest!
We made a stop in the Deutsches Hopfenmuseum Wolnzach and learned more about Hops from its botanical background up to its main role in Beer brewery. Imagine, around 14,220 hectares (35,120 acres) of hops are grown in this region and harvested in mid-August. Being around with these gigantic vines is a great experience. The smell and fragrant of Hops is really something you need to experience personally. In Germany, the total hops-growing area amounts to 19,000 hectares and makes up a third of global production
One of the coolest thing you can find there is the Hop picking machine, where it is the biggest and most expensive agricultural machine of all times. The museum’s own “Iron Picker” was refurbished and is now ready again for special demonstrations. When we arrived, a group of American tourists also came. They were cycling and they were are all excited to know more about Hops and making photos! One says “the smell of Hops is really strange!” My daughter said it smells like pee! I also find it strong , no wonder it was once quoted as “wicked and pernicious weed“!
Mind you, cycling along the Hop yards is actually another adventure that I wished to do myself!
Did you know that Hops plant cannot be harvested on their first year after being planted? But after its initial phase, they can produce for the next 70 years! This is really a plant for decades! Another crazy fact that I’ve learned is that Hops flowers should only be female flower to be allowed to be brewed.
Because pollinated seeds are undesirable for brewing beer, only female plants are grown in hop fields, thus preventing pollination .But how would you know if the flower is female or male?!
If you’re looking for a different kind of adventure for families and all ages and you’re in the vicinity of Upper Bavaria, a visit to the Hop fields should be on your list. What’s best, you can end your road trip with a Prost!
Do you have a Bier Wanderlust? If you have more time to kill, check out my post about the artist Hundertwasser and the unique Kunsthaus in Abensberg and Kuchlbauer’s Bierwelt where you can also learn about Beer brewing in a magnificent Artistic backdrop!
Until then, Tschüss!