Roadtrip into Bavarian’s Hops fields (Hallertauer Hopfenhimmel)

The green gold in Bavaria : the Hops, along with malt, water and yeast make up the world famous Bavarian Beer

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.

Hops – ” A Green Flower “
When growing hops, a minimum of 120 frost-free days are necessary for flower production. It is the green flower of the female hops plant that is a key ingredient in beer, and these flowers are called cones. Each cone is an inch or two long with papery green scales, and when mature the cones produce a yellow powder called lupulin. It is the lupulin that give hops their flavor .

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.

Where there is Hops, there is Beer!

Adventure of the Day : Grabbing a bunch of Hop flowers !
Hop is actually a flower, called Strobiles from the plant Humulus Lupulus.

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

Creative art from Hops : A wreath made of Hop flowers!
In the Museum where we visited ( Deutsches Hopfenmuseum Wolnzach) it costs 15 Euros !

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?!

Creative decorative wreath made of Hops
A worthwhile visit in the Hopfenmuseum in Wolnzach , Bavaria

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!

Prost! Biergarten and the Beer Culture in Germany

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Beer tasting in Abensberg, Bavaria ,Germany
What is it about Germans and their Beers?

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Prost! 
 

Or what about  German Beer tents, Lederhosens and Dirndls and more Beer?

 

 

Imagine, I’ve been living here in Germany for almost more than a year now, and I realized that I’ve never written anything about Bier— the “liquid gold” of this country , or worldly known as Beer.  My daughter has been obsessed  with Pretzel ( or Brezen)  been into Beer tents and Volksfests, and I, shamelessly confessing my love for German Beer culture.

 

I think it’s  just fitting that I write about it for a fact that I am living in the Beer capital of the world : Bavaria! My personal views are honest observations as an Asian expat who have learned to embraced their Beer culture, (and loving it!, of course )

“Where people brew beer, that’s a good place to live!”  {an old Czech saying}

Unique, Bavarian Beer

I don’t know any other place in this world where in Beer is regarded as important as staple food in everyday lifestyle. I grow up knowing that beer is seen as a drink of pleasure. I have never had a liking to it, I find it too bitter and I hate frequent trips to the toilet as I am not a drinker. Here in Bavaria it is considered more as a basic food. It’s no wonder on average a Bavarian consumes from birth to the grave some 150 litres (40 gallons) of beer per year. Just like German’s world-record breaking number of Breads and Sausages,  For the record, Bavaria is known to have 40 types of beer, over 600 Breweries and approximately 4,000 brands! Imagine that! It all depends on your preferences, and of course, the price. You can read more of it Here.

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Biergarten in front of New Castle
Need I say more, I told you, Beer is THE BIG thing here.

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Biergarten with the view of the Church on a hill in Walhalla.

Biergarten is the place to be!

Where else is the best place to enjoy Bier ?

Biergartens ( or Beer gardens)  are normal garden halls or part of the restaurant under shady green trees, with wooden benches, and shared tables in a cozy setting where people meet together, eating, chatting, lounging, and of course—with a beer. Every meeting is best celebrated with a cold, tall glass, pils or  Maß  of bubbly beer. All Biergartens are closed during Winter and  officially opens during beautiful weather around May in true style round the maypole with traditional May dances and a barrel of tasty “Maibock”. The moment you see those tables and chairs laid down, you know, good times are bound to come.

The thing is, most people doesn’t know that Beer is not just part of German culture —it’s their  culture, life, lifeblood, a legacy  and undying tradition passed on to generations to generations.

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German pride!
 

Back then in Kuwait, people spend more time in shopping malls because of the heat outside. Here in Bavaria, especially on warm summer months,  Biergarten is the best place to go, or celebrate everything. It’s not just a place to get drunk. I once saw a wedding reception in the Biergarten and family gatherings. For the locals, the moment the sun shines, people flocked here as early as 9 A.M . As a mother, I find it so cool that some Biergartens are kid-friendly. They have “spielplatz”or play areas , and even have kids meal and kinder beer. Families enjoy time with their friends while kids can play.

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Beautiful Biergarten beside the well-known Kuchlbauer Brewery and Kuchlbauer Turm.
When we visited the “Kuchlbauer Brewery”with the Kuchlbauer Turm inspired by Hundertwasser in Abensberg, the atmosphere in the Biergarten is super cozy. Imagine, they even built a tower to honor beer! With a nice view of the tower, everyone is having a great time! Bavaria’s largest beer garden (and probably the largest in the world) is Munich’s Hirschgarten that can cater for some 8,000 people. Here in Ingolstadt, here are some of our favorite Biergartens to visit.

It’s also typical in Bavaria where  old people regularly meet in Biergartens, locally known as “Stammtisch”. Sometimes they even have games, party, dancing, with traditional Volk music, and yes, all throughout Sunday! Another unique thing is that people wears their traditional “Trachten“, the Lederhosen and Dirndls! 

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Biergarten above the hill in Nürnberg

Only Pure Beer

Did you know that in Germany, especially in Bavaria where it all originated, the German Beer Purity Law rules, the Reinheitsgebot is a L-A-W. 500 Years of regulated law for Beer Brewing is no joke. Its a serious business, and for Germans, there is high respect for this regulation.

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The German Beer Purity Law
“Reinheitsgebot, also known as the Bavarian Beer Purity Law and Bavarian Beer Ingredient Law, was enacted in 1516 , in Ingolstadt by the Duke of Bavaria, so that only beers made with just three ingredients — hops, barley malt and water (yeast was unknown at the time) — were allowed to be labeled a “pure” German beer and fit to drink “. This law has 3 aims :

  • To protect drinkers from high prices
  • To ban the use of wheat beer so more bread could be made
  • And to stop the unscrupulous brewers from adding “dubious”toxic , even hallucinogenic ingredients as preservatives or flavourings.

Everything sounds great, right?

They included herbs and spices such as rosemary and caraway, henbane, thorn-apple, wood shavings, roots, soot or even pitch, according to the German Brewers’ Association (DBB).The DBB claims that the Reinheitsgebot is the oldest currently valid consumer protection law in the world. Germany exports 1.5 billion litres of beer every year, and the country is pretty proud of its beer and the purity law.

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A Festival is no Festival without Beer

From the time that I’ve lived here, I have never seen a German as drunk as hell, swaying and getting wasted in the streets, let alone getting amok because of  beer intoxication. During Oktoberfest, if you see a wasted man or woman from the festival, it’s most likely that He/ She is a tourist. Germans sits in the Biergarten for 3-5 hours on Sunday and still rides their bike afterwards going home, even old people.

In Germany,  beer is more than the  Beer Festival  in Munich or the world known as “Oktoberfest”. Before, I only knew of Oktoberfest as a time to get totally drunk and wasted in club or in a bar, drinking buckets of beer,watching live bands–having a great night out—that’s it. While living here, when I first have a taste of my very first “pure” Bavarian beer” , I realized how little I know. Germany has more to offer than just Oktoberfest.  It has so many festivals celebrated all throughout the year, all celebrated with beer. Starting with Frühlingsfest ( Spring Festival), Herbstfest-Volksfest ( Autumn Festival) , Oktoberfest ( Beer Festival in Bavarian capital-Munich) , add the Easter, Bürgerfest, and the Christkindlmarkts ( or  Christmas Markets) —everything is celebrated with O’zapft is!  or the tapping of Beer barrel.

Drink, Eat, Repeat

In the beginning of beer gardens, there was plenty to drink but nothing to eat. Because brewers were not allowed to sell food, many Germans brought their own pretzel and wurst to the beer garden. But nowadays, there are plenty of specialties to indulge, so there’s always a reason to taste the local delicacies especially served in Biergartens.Along with local beer, served in 1-liter steins, German beer garden specialties include:

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  • Brotzeit – a platter with cold cuts, artisan cheese, sausages, pretzel, horseradish, and cucumbers
  • Currywurst swimming in currysauce with pommes ( potato fries)
  • Obatzter – a soft, white cheese, mixed with onions and chives
  • Weisswurst – white sausage, complimented by sweet mustard and a pretzel
  • Kartoffelsalat ( potato salad)
  • Hendl  (Half-roasted chicken)
  • Schnitzel with pommes

Germans are best described as people who work hard, and play hard. Just look at their Beer and Biergarten culture and you’ll understand what I mean.

How about you, do you like to drink Bier? What do you think of their Biergartens?