Maybe you like beer. Maybe you don’t.
No matter. I am pretty sure that you know that beer is only brewed according to the purity law of 1516. The only ingredients allowed are: water, yeast, barley malt und hops.
2/3 of the annual amount of the 90 000 tons of harvested hops comes from the USA and Germany.
But do you know where this amount of hops is cultivated in Germany? The cultivation of hops has made its mark on several regions of Germany and gives these areas a very special character. These regions are the Hallertau, Hersbruck, Elbe-Saale, Spalt and Biburg /Hochdorf.
Born and raised in the Hallertau, my husband and I are so-called Holledauer. That’s why I shall focus on the Hallertau. No offence to the other regions ;)
The cultural landscape Hallertau lies in the center of Bavaria. It is its green soul or so they say.
If you travel to the Hallertau/ Holledau (in dialect) you need not be a daring backpacker. But if you are visiting this hilly region north-east of Munich, be prepared for little surprises.
The Hallertau has been Germany’s largest hop growing region since 1912 and today it is also the largest contiguous growing area in the world. For more than 1000 years hops have been cultivated in the Hallertau.
On an area of 17 000 hectares, only the female hop plants entwine themselves in a trio of seven meter high poles to form the typical hop gardens.
The hop garden itself delimits the property and also the hop variety. There are 25 different varieties of hops which are cultivated in the Hallertau and exported to about 90 countries worldwide.
The Hallertau cannot be precisely defined geographically. It belongs partly to Upper Bavaria and partly to Lower Bavaria. Central locations are Wolnzach, Geisenfeld, Pfaffenhofen, Mainburg and Au. Others include Ingolstadt, Landshut and Kehlheim, but those are less famous ☺
This unique area can be explored in many ways. Since 2006 the traffic route along the B 301 has officially been called the ‘Deutsche Hopfenstrasse’. The ‚Bavarian Bierstrasse’ also runs through this area. Starting in Ingolstadt (Heinz has already been there), it ends at the Danube gorge near Kehlheim, where the baroque monastery Weltenburg and its famous brewery is located.
The Hallertau has a unique character in every season. In autumn, clouds of mist lay over the hop gardens and the fog doesn’t lift for days. In winter, the lonely hop gardens are covered with snow.
In spring, the hop gardens are full of people who are preparing the hop plants for the next growing period by directing the young hop shoots to grow up wires. In late summer it‘s finally time for the harvest.
Then they are particularly impressive for tourists. At this time of the year the hop plants have grown up to 7m tall, and supported by a framework of wires and poles, they hang there with their overcrowded green umbels. The Hallertau could not be greener than it is in these days.
A very special moment is when the hop harvest starts around mid-August. Then the sweet smell of hops is in the air everywhere. Did you know that the hop is related to the hemp plant? ☺
On the dirty roads lie hop wires which the tractors have brought out of the fields. Be careful! Those are real tyre killers.
The harvesting period has also influenced the Bavarian festival culture. The most famous Volksfest is the Barthelmarkt in Oberstimm or the Galli Markt in Mainburg. A smaller one is the Wolnzacher Volksfest.
The Hallertau also has a wide range of hiking trails and bike paths to choose from. On the circuit „Hopfentour“, about 176 km long, you can explore the core of the region. You can start at any point.
There are various extensions using which the tour can be varied. The Hopfentour is part of the famous bike path München-Regensburg-Prague.
Another highlight is a visit to the monastary Scheyern and its affiliated monastary tavern.
When we were teenagers school excursions ended there several times.
Those making their way from Neuburg an der Donau to the famous place of pilgrimage, Santiago di Compostella will come directly past Scheyern.
The Hallertau is a gem within the diversity of German landscape. “What the colour purple is in the Provence, the colour green is in the Hallertau“.
Go and see for yourself.