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Edelstoff: A beer fit for a hop queen

Did I mention the Edelstoff from Augustiner was from the wood, and a lot cheaper than beer at Oktoberfest in Munich?

Veronika Springer, Hallertau Hop Queen

Last week Veronika Springer was crowned Hallertau Hop Queen (Hopfenkönigin) for 2011-2012. I didn’t vote for her, but she received 62 percent (1,478) of the votes. The Wolnzach Volkfest tent was rocking, packed with hop farmers and friends washing down traditional festival food with liters of Augustiner.

Veronika Springer, Hallertau Hop Queen

The new queen is well qualified, having grown up on a hop farm and currently working at NATECO2, an extraction plant where hops are the biggest part of the business. She didn’t get my support, or that of several of the brewmasters I was seated with, because she seems to be skeptical about the future of “flavor”1 hops.

Change is afoot in Germany and these are brewers who want to be part of it. That doesn’t mean they are about to abandon tradition, but it does mean the range of flavors from Halltertau hops will soon be broader.2 The crew at the Hop Research Center at Hüll is not interested in copying American hop flavors, but I was there maybe three minutes before I thought, “These guys are not going to be left behind.”

1 With the line between what were once known as “bittering” and “aroma” hops already blurred — and the term “dual purpose” just not cutting it — I’m not sure how the idea of “flavor hops” will fit in, but I heard those words in the UK, Germany and Czech Republic. These could also be called “impact hops.” To the continental palate Cascade is a “flavor” hop; while you’ve got to throw something like Citra or Simcoe at an hop-experienced American for impact. Sound confusing? At least you don’t have to sort it out for a book.

2 These hops are also going to show up in beers brewed in America. I can’t wait.

And the band played on

Palate readjustment

Last beer yesterday: Fuller’s Chiswick Ale in the pub on the brewery grounds. Four different hops. Five different hop additions. Just what a 3.5% abv English bitter should be.

First beer today: Augustiner Pilsner after driving through scores of German hop fields sparkling in the late afternoon sun. No stopping for photos on the autobahn, but maybe I can post one or two tomorrow. Augustiner is one of the sponsors of the Hallertau Volkfest that starts Friday. Tuesday they choose a new hop queen. I will report back.

What would you ask a hop queen?

Mona EuringerNo, seriously.

Next week judges stream into Chicago to taste their way through 3,500 or so entrants in the World Beer Cup and soon they will be joined by thousands of brewing industry members for the Craft Brewers Conference.

I expect only the toughest will make it up Saturday morning for “Brewing Belgian White and Wit Beers,” the panel I’ll be moderating. Fortunately there will be many more exciting moments. First up, Wednesday afternoon is a chance to meet the Hallertau hop queen, Mona Euringer. She’ll be in Chicago along with members of the German Hop Growers Association.

She’ll give a brief talk about life on a hop farm and also be around for the trade show Thursday and Friday. Last year the hop growers caught some grief when it was suggested Nicol Frankl, the previous hop queen, was invited along only because she has a pretty face.

Not true. “To be elected hop queen, you have to have grown up and helped work on a hop farm all of your life, you have to know hops, hop farming, and all the machinery involved,” said Eric Toft, brewmaster at Private Landbrauerei Schönram, who doubles as a representative of the hop growers.

I promise to find out just how much she knows. So if you have a question you want asked please leave it as a comment. As long as it’s not rude I’ll ask her.

The hop growers will also be serving a variety of beers. Toft wrote the recipes and Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania made the beers. They will include three different Belgian-style pale ales — each brewed with a single German aroma hop varieties: Hallertauer Mittelfruh, Smaragd, Hersbrucker — a new Bavarian-style pale ale, and a tripel hopped with Saphir.

I promise to ask questions first and drink beers later.

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