The brewing industry owes a great debt to the fields of Germany, particularly Bavaria’s Hallertau, the largest hop-growing region in the world. Humulus lupulus is one of the chief flavoring agents in beer, and the Hallertau is filled with the tall green bines and herbal, resinous smell of the beloved crop. In addition to bars and breweries, the region’s agricultural contribution to beer is celebrated at a unique local museum. With several varieties of hops growing around its perimeter, the Wolnzach Hops Museum hosts exhibitions that cover all hops-related topics, ranging from botanics to the craft of brewing to history.
The museum covers everything from hops’ early use as medicine in the 8th century to the Reinheitsgebot (the German Beer Purity Law that decreed all beer should be made with only water, barley, and hops), which sparked a major increase in local hops cultivation, and the impact of the Industrial Revolution on production and harvesting. There are models of old picker equipment, hopfendarre (hop-drying kilns), and mannequins demonstrating harvesting techniques.
For thirsty visitors wanting to taste the fruits of all this labor, the museum has its own beer cellar and hosts beer-tasting seminars featuring local styles of light lagers and doppelbocks as well as imports ranging from Belgian ales to craft brews from the United States. These sessions need to be booked in advance.
Know Before You Go
It's worth exploring beyond the museum itself, roaming the Hallertau region by bike or on a hike. You can wander past vast hop plantations embedded within an extremely beautiful hilly landscape. When the hops cones are ripe, they spread a unique and pleasant odor.