This is the view from the first (remember, on this side of the Atlantic the ground is 0 and the first floor one above it) story of a pretty typical hop drying barn in Spalt, Germany’s oldest hop growing region. Hops, trees, enchanting village . . . there’s a lot more to Bavaria, but I favor those ingredients.
Although Spalt holds Germany’s oldest hops trademark, awarded in 1538, and was once a large hop growing region these days its 75 growers tend to only 370 hectars (a hectar equals about two and a half acres). In contrast, 73 growers oversee production of more than 16,000 hectars in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
In the Spalt region, hops is a family business rather than a growth business.
“It used to be you’d see hops every direction you looked,” Hermann Wissmüller, a local doctor, said between sips of Spalter Leichte Weisse at lunchtime. “One year there would be many new yards, and the next farmers were taking them out.”
Wissmüller owns part of Stadtbrauerei Spalt in the middle of town. Simply because he’s a resident. It is the only community owned brewery in German, and presumably in the world. “There are 5,000 of us, so I own one five-thousandeth. And so does she,” he said, pointing to the woman who poured me a Spalter Pilsner.
“No big brewery is going to take over this one,” he said. “It is ours.”