Hops are often described as the soul of beer and now is their most heightened season. Across the world, hops flourish: here, we discuss the primary locations and what they are growing.
Moist climates with long sun exposure (latitudes between 45°-51° north or south) make for hop heaven. There are four primary hop production regions and, not surprisingly, they directly correspond with excellent brewing centers. America and Germany compete for the title as the largest hop producer in the world, with the United States holding the mantle last year. Most is concentrated in the Pacific Northwest with Washington’s Yakima Valley far outpacing Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Northwest hops, bred for high alpha acids, deliver aromas and flavors of pine, citrus and stone fruit. Hops such as Cascade, Centennial, and more recently, Citra and Mosaic are ideal for pale ales and IPAs.
Hallertau hops from Bavaria are marked for their floral aromatics and spice, but not bitter flavor. Varietals reverentially referred to as noble hops include Tettnanger, Spalt, Hallertau Mittelfrüh and Saaz. These are the backbone for classic German and Czech styles like pilsners, kölsch, as well as all those delicate wheat/weiss beers.
Most of the beers popular among American craft brewers are inspired by English ale brewers from our beloved IPAs to stouts, ESBs and barleywine. There are hop farms across England but Kent is renowned as the production center and responsible for prototypical UK varietals such as Kent Golding, Fuggle and Brewer’s Gold. UK hops are often fruity and herbaceous.
In Australia, Tasmania and primarily New Zealand, a new found terroir is infusing tropical fruit and berry flavors into saisons and what are now called Australian pale ales. Nelson Sauvin, Galaxy and Motueka hops don’t just offer fresh flavors, but since their growing season is the opposite of the Northern Hemisphere’s, they allow for fresher hops during our spring.
Of course, it’s a small world after all, so look for China, Patagonia and some African countries like Ethiopia to create the world’s next favorite hops and hoppy beers.