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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Beer - Hops (Hopfen)

I have wanted to post this article in early September (that's when the photos were taken) to coincide with the 200 year Oktoberfest.   But as usual, something cropped up and I had to postpone.   It is still October anyway.     

Beer is a major part of german culture.  Every german town used to have their own brewery or breweries. You may have heard of the 'Reinheitsgebot'  (Bavarian Purity law) dated 1516 which is still enforced today, stipulating  that only ingredients allowed for brewing are water, barley-malt and HOPS.

Facit : No hops, no beer !!
What is hops ?

Hop cones (flowers) are the dried flower of the hop vine.   This is the ingredient which imparts the aroma, flavour and bitterness in your beer.  There are many different varieties with each of its own unique flavours. I spent half a day on this farm, watching, following their every step, trying to be invicible, from the fields to export process.

These veins are grown in and around fruit orchards. As you drive towards the lake (Lake of Constance) from Stuttgart to Austria/Switzerland, you may spot these poles standing like soldiers in a row.  
On the left are the veins. On the right are naked poles after harvesting 

In spring  when the hops poke its head out of the ground, the farmer will attach a thin wire which is hooked high up on top of the poles.  Hops is a creeper so it will climb up the wire over the months.

3 to 4 vines are attached to each wire.  See how thick the vines are.
See the thickness of the poles and wires

  The farmer will drive (more like manouver) his tractor between the poles, cut, pull the vines down and load them into the back of the tractor.
The vines will then be transported back to the farm where his people will be there to load the vines into the thresher where the hop cones will be separated from the vine.

  Each bunch of vine, including the wire on which it grew 'up',  will be hooked and dragged into the thresher.


The vines including wires, are cut/shredded into bite sizes for compost - recycled into the orchard.  Iron is good for plants - big and strong :-)

 Leaves and other unwanted whatnots are sorted out by hand.

 The cones are transported  to the 'dryer' one floor up the thresher, where they are fan/blown dried.   The drying process may take a whole day or a few hours, depending on the weather.   It must not be too dry or too moist.  I can't remember exactly how many percent of moisture is retained.  I could not make any photos because the humidity up there was so high that my lenses misted up.
The hops are then packed into huge sacks/bags, sewn tight and fit for export or delivery to breweries.

Other than beer, hops are good as tea.  From fresh harvested vines, some are made into wreaths or garlands as you can see here.

This farm/family were really helpful.  Thankful to them for allowing me to make these photos and patience to answer my nosey questions.  If any one of you have interest  to have a farm holiday (especially with children), you may contact them as they have a few holiday apartments within the farm -
If I'm not wrong, his wife and inlaws run the farm holiday apartments.

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