The plant genus of hops belongs to the family of hemp plants (Cannabaceae). It is an annual climbing plant which forms deep roots, grows up to six metres high and winds around in an anti-clockwise direction. On the vines and the leafstalks you will find countless little hooked hairs for climbing, the so-called climbing hooks. Whilst the coarse vines have six ribs or are winged, the stalked leaves are distinguished by their jagged appearance. The flowering period of the hops is July to September; the flower heads are known as hop cones.
Hops – the soul of beer
The soul of a beer is the hop which, with its natural aroma and the bitter substances it contains, produces the characteristic slightly tart taste. Worldwide, there are only a few areas where the best hops can be grown successfully. One of these is Hallertau in Bavaria, another is Holsthum near Bitburg in the South Eifel nature reserve. The famous Bitburger certified hops (Siegelhopfen) come from these areas. Both of these certified hops are used in our Bitburger Premium Pils.
Live from the hop garden – where green gold grows
Our green gold grows right here in the area neighbouring on the Bitburger brewery – the Bitburger certified hops can be found in the hop gardens of the farm of the Dick family in Holsthum in the South Eifel nature reserve. In order that the hop plants reach their peak growth of up to six metres in the summer and can then ultimately be harvested with a high yield in August and September, there are quite a number of steps which need to be taken in the family business of Andreas and Herbert Dick – after all, there is a good deal of work involved in growing hops. You can watch these various procedures in the cultivation of one of our most important raw materials as well as observing its growth day by day on our webcam – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, live from the hop garden!
Hops – the plant genus
Where they are found
We distinguish between three species of hop: the common hop (Humulus lupulus), the Japanese hop (Humulus scandens) and the Yunnan hop (Humulus yunnanensis). Of the three species in existence, it is solely the common hop that is used to brew beer. This hop can be found in the northern hemisphere. It prefers damp soil and is found in its wild form at the edges of woodland, in alluvial forests or on river banks, for example. Hops are commercially cultivated over wide areas above all in Germany, North America, the Czech Republic and also in China.
Male vs. female – the difference
Hops are dioecious, i.e. male and female flowers are found on separate plants. The male flower head is distinguished by hanging panicles, the female flower head by its yellow-green scaled cones. It is only the female flower head that forms the hop cones that contain the characteristic bitter substances.
Green gold for one of the best beers in the world
Hops give beer its unmistakeable flavour with the bitter substances and ethereal oils they contain. The brewer can only achieve a good result if the hops are harvested at the right time, and stored and processed in the correct way. But we want more than that.
That's why we buy our raw hops exclusively from Hallertau in Bavaria, one of the largest interconnected hop-growing areas in the world, as well as from Holsthum near Bitburg in the South Eifel nature reserve. We select these certified hops in line with our quality requirements and put them through a demanding quality inspection whilst still at the farm. For we only use the varieties of hops that we consider to be the best for our Bitburger hops-based recipes.
The Bitburger certified hops from Holsthum in the Rhineland-Palatinate area are exclusively used in our brewery.
Hops – fresh, dried, as pellets or extract
Hops give the beer its characteristic aroma and typical bitter taste. The amount of hops which needs to be added varies according to the type of beer. As well as fresh hops (green hops) and dried hops, hop pellets and hop extract are nowadays also used in the brewing process. Pellets and extract have the great advantage that they can be stored without any reduction in quality. Furthermore, weight is reduced in the process of refining of the hops. This means a cut in transport and warehousing costs – which make sense from the point of view of sustainability.
Hop pellets are made solely of hop cones that have been cleaned, chopped up into small pieces and pressed. This is the reason that hop pellets are listed in the ingredients on the bottle label as simply "hops". In this form, the hops can be stored in lightproof and airtight conditions and remain usable for a longer period.
To produce hop extract, chopped-up hop cones are rinsed with ethanol (potable alcohol) which is subsequently completely evaporated and then reused. What is left over is the green hop extract which has a similar consistency to honey. The valuable ingredients such as ethereal oils and alpha acids, which give the beer its bitter flavour, are retained in their natural form. Packed in airtight conditions, the hop extract can be used right through until the next harvest time without any reduction in quality, making it possible to brew a beer with a high-quality taste the whole year round.
The best hops are unfertilised and female
At the end of August, things are really getting busy for hop farmer Dick in Holsthum in the Bitburg-Prüm district. It’s harvest time. Now the female hop cones, which are the ones that contain the necessary bitter substances, are bathed in a rich yellow colour. The aroma of this hemp plant has now also achieved the perfect level of maturity. The climate and the soil in this region provide the ideal growing conditions for the plants.
For 40 years now, hop farmer Dick has ensured the extraordinary quality of our hops with his passion for hop growing and his dedication to the task. The climate and the soil in this region provide the ideal growing conditions for the plants.
Grown to the highest standards – Bitburg certified hops
Before hops can be used in our Bitburger Premium Pils, they have to go through a strict process of quality control. We select only the best hops which have met our quality standards in all areas. This also applies to the hops we use from Hallertau which are first of all sampled by our staff in the local area and subsequently undergo an analysis of their constituent ingredients here in Bitburg.
This procedure is a particular quality feature. Genuine Bitburger can after all only be brewed in the Eifel region from the very best ingredients. This would explain why the special mix of Hallertau and Bitburg certified hops, our own natural yeasts and our supply of deep water give Bitburger its slightly bitter character and its unique taste. And this is why you will so often hear friends on an evening out calling out – "Bitte ein Bit" (a Bit please!)
Did you know?
Of the three varieties of hops in existence, it is only the common hop that is suitable for beer brewing.