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FOOD & DRINK

EXPLAINED: The German regions producing the most important beer ingredient

Beer is a major part of German culture and hops are a crucial ingredient in its production. These are the country's four main hops-growing regions.

A man holds a glass of beer in a hop field in Hallertau.
A man holds a glass of beer in a hop field in Hallertau. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Armin Weigel

The image of a frothing beer jug gleaming with golden liquid often comes to mind when people think about Germany. Part of the reason for this association is that Germany is one of the world’s main producers of a crucial ingredient: hops. 

Sometimes called ‘the spice of beer’, hops give beer its bitter taste, provide shelf life, foam formation and stability and can also introduce flavours of herbs, spices and citrus fruits.

After the US, Germany is the second largest hop-growing country worldwide: hops are grown on an area of around 20,144 hectares (roughly the size of 50,000 football pitches) across the country. These are the four main regions where the plant is grown.

Hallertau (Bavaria)

By far the largest hop-growing area in Germany is in the Bavarian Hallertau. 

Around 86 percent of German hops and 24 percent of the world’s hops are produced in the Hallertau region in the heart of Bavaria between Munich, Ingolstadt, Regensburg and Landshut.

For centuries, the “most Bavarian” of all plants have been grown and cultivated here and have shaped the landscape as well as the identity and culture of the inhabitants.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Oktoberfest to return in 2022 after pandemic pause

Spalt (Franconia)

One of the oldest German hop-growing regions is in Spalt, Franconia. Hop cultivation in the area around Spalt was mentioned in historical documents dating back to 1341 and, at the beginning of the 19th century, this region was the largest German hop-growing area.

Hop farmer Hans Heckl holds a hop pole in his hands in Mosbach near Spalt (Middle Franconia).

Hop farmer Hans Heckl holds a hop pole in his hands in Mosbach near Spalt (Middle Franconia). Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Daniel Karmann

In 1538, Spalt received the first German ‘hop seal’, which officially confirmed and protected the origin and quality of the hops. It was a punishable offence if hop plants were stolen or exported. 

Due to the high number of sunshine hours in the region, hops from this area are marked by a particularly special aroma.

Tettnang (Baden-Württemberg)

The small residential town between the northern shores of Lake Constance and the Allgäu is also the southernmost hop-growing region in Germany.

Around 7 percent of the hops produced in Germany are grown here on an area of about 1,480 hectares, mainly concentrated around the town of Tettnang.

Tettnang hops are used all over the world as one of the raw materials for beer brewing. The regional land variety of the true hop, the so-called Tettnang Tettnanger, is mainly cultivated here.

Elbe-Saale

The Elbe-Saale hop-growing region, which covers the states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, covers 1,564 hectares and is the second-largest hop-growing region in Germany after the Hallertau (Bavaria).

Hop cultivation in the central German region has a tradition of more than a thousand years and the region’s main focus is on the cultivation of bitter hops.

Useful Vocabulary:

Hops – (der) Hopfen

to cultivate – etwas anbauen

growing region – (das) Anbaugebiet

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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GERMAN TRADITIONS

10 ways to enjoy autumn like a true German

From scavenging for mushrooms to drinking Apfelwein, autumn is a truly magical season in Germany. Here's how to make the most of the fall months just like the locals do.

10 ways to enjoy autumn like a true German

As summer transitions to autumn, it can be easy to remain nostalgic for the long, sunny days. But the months leading up to Christmas can also be an immensely vibrant time to be in Germany – if you know how.

So as you swap your summer t-shirts for woolly jumpers, why not participate in some quintessentially German customs, from whipping up pumpkin dishes to collecting chestnuts in the park? 

If you’re not sure where to start, here are 10 ways to make the most of autumn in true German style this year. 

1. Give thanks for the harvest

Since the third century, Christian countries have organised festivals to thank God for the gift of the autumn harvest – and in Germany, these religious celebrations continue to this day.

Traditionally, Erntedankfest (Harvest Thanksgiving) is celebrated on the first Sunday of October in rural communities with church services, a parade (complete with a harvest queen), music and a country fair. Food is also collected for those in need. In some regions, the celebrations coincide with the wine harvest, and vineyard owners set up stalls where locals can sample the season’s wines.

A church in Lower Saxony collect food donations at harvest time.

A church in Lower Saxony collect food donations at harvest time. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Friso Gentsch

2. Eat pumpkin with everything

Say goodbye to Spargelzeit, the time of year when white asparagus is served on special menus in just about every German restaurant – autumn marks the start of Kürbiszeit, when Germans get creative with the humble pumpkin. 

From spicy soups to creamy pumpkin risotto, you may be surprised at how versatile pumpkin can be. In fact, if you happen to visit a farmer’s market in the next month or two, you may discover that there are far more varieties of pumpkin than you ever imagined.

And if you do start to get bored of pumpkin dishes as the season wears on, there’s plenty more seasonal produce to experiment with, from Grünkohl (kale) to Pfefferlinge (chanterelle mushrooms). 

READ ALSO: German Word of the Day: Der Kürbis

3. Go foraging for mushrooms

As soon as the first touch of autumn frost is in the air, many Germans wrap up warm and head out to the forest for a popular national pastime: mushroom foraging. The idea is simply to head out into nature, basket in tow, and see what wild mushrooms you can find, from the beefy Steinpilz to the slippery Butterpilz

A word of warning, though. Legally speaking, the mushrooms should only be for personal use (i.e. not to sell), and some mushrooms may not be edible at all. If you’re a beginner forager, it’s a good idea to head out with some experienced mushroom gatherers to start with, or take your treasure to your local Pilzberater (mushroom consultant) who can let you know if your mushrooms are safe to eat. 

READ ALSO: What’s behind the German fascination with foraging for wild mushrooms?

Mushroom foraging in Brandenburg

A forager collects mushrooms in a basket in Brandenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Patrick Pleul

4. Visit your local Herbstfest 

Though the days are getting shorter and colder, there’s no excuse to hibernate just yet. Whether you live in a small town or a big city, there’s bound to be at least one Herbstfest (or autumn festival) going on, which can be a great reason to get out of the house and spend time with friends.

The most famous autumn festival in Germany is obviously Oktoberfest – an enormous fairground and beer festival that runs in Munich from late September to early October. If you can’t make it to Bavaria, there are usually little copy-cat festivals dotted around Germany, as well as other local events where you can enjoy delicious seasonal favourites from Apfelwein (apple wine) to Flammkuchen and Käsespätzle

5. Celebrate the reunification of East and West Germany

October 3rd is a special day in the German calendar, marking the date on which East and West Germany were reunified after 41 years apart. Though reunification can bring up complex feelings for some Germans, Unity Day (Tag der Einheit) is a national bank holiday, which is reason to celebrate in itself.

This year, the date falls on a Monday, meaning people can look forward to a long weekend with fireworks and local celebrations. Why not get a group of friends together and check out what’s going on in your area? In Berlin, for instance, stages are set up all around Brandenburg Gate each year, with music performances, comedy and street theatre. 

6. Make paper lanterns on St. Martin’s Day 

Largely celebrated in Germany’s catholic states, Martinstag (St. Martin’s Day) on November 11th is a charming German custom that has a fair bit in common with Halloween. Traditionally, children dress up and head out onto the streets in a little procession with paper lanterns. In some regions, they also go door to door and sing for sweets, fruit or cookies. 

Families marking St. Martin’s Day will generally eat a Martinsgans (Martin’s Goose) for dinner. This is in reference to a part of the legend of St. Martin in which Martin, believing himself unworthy of becoming a bishop, attempts to hide himself in a stable filled with geese. 

In protestant Berlin and other parts of northern Germany, the processions have been rebranded as the secular Laternenfest (Lantern Festival).

St. Martin's Day procession Thuringia

Thousands of people join a St. Martin’s Day procession in Erfurt, Thuringia. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Reichel

READ ALSO: Six signs autumn has arrived in Germany

7. Collect chestnuts in the park

As the leaves starts to fall, you may notice something else lying on the ground on your street or in your local park: chestnuts. Heading out on a walk to collect chestnuts can be a great way to while away a bright autumnal afternoon, not to mention a fun activity for children. 

If you do go chestnut collecting, however, make sure you follow the rules: only chestnuts that have fallen to the ground can be picked up. Also take note that horse chestnuts, which are the ones usually found in cities, are poisonous – so don’t eat them. 

8. Dress up for Halloween

Though celebrating Halloween is much more popular in the United States, some American traditions – from fancy dress to trick-or-treating – have slowly but surely taken hold in Germany over the past few decades. 

Instead of saying “trick or treat”, German children tend to say, “Süßes oder Saures” (sweet or sour?) as they blackmail their neighbours into emptying their sweet cupboards.

But even if you’re not keen on an American-style Halloween, there are ways to celebrate Halloween like a true German. Why not spend the day carving pumpkins and then head out for a spooky tour of a haunted castle in the evening? 

READ ALSO: What are Germany’s 8 spookiest places?

9. Fly a kite 

The hot, humid days are over and a chill wind is in the air, so what better time to indulge in another German obsession – flying kites? 

Adorably known as Drachen (dragons) in German, autumn is prime kite-flying season in Germany, so be sure to take your kite (and your family) out to your park on the next windy Sunday afternoon to see what all the fuss is about.  

Kite flying in Berlin

People fly dragon kites at the Drachenfest on Berlin Tempelhofer Feld. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

10. Remember lost loved ones 

In a more sombre autumnal tradition, All Saint’s Day on November 1st is a time to remember loved ones who are no longer with us.

Taking place on November 1st, the day after All Hallow’s Eve, many Germans will take the opportunity to place candles or wreaths on the graves of their relatives. Churches will generally hold sermons dedicated to the theme of remembrance and in the evening, religious families may gather together for dinner. The following morning, on All Soul’s Day, there are more religious services and prayers for the dead. 

Even for those who aren’t believers, November 1st can offer an opportunity for reflection, contemplation and most importantly, a chance to spend time with the people you love. 

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