German Hops comprise more acres under hop poles than in any other country in the world. The second-ranked United States has fewer acres, but its production often surpasses that of Germany. The reason for this is Germany’s greater concentration on low-yielding aroma hops. Germany has four main hop-growing regions: Hallertau, some 80 km (49 mi) north of Munich; Elbe-Saale in the southern part of the former East Germany; Tettnang on the north shore of Lake Constance near the Swiss border; and Spalt in Franconia, near Nuremberg, In the Middle Ages, hops were also grown on a large scale in northern Germany, but most of these fields were destroyed during the Thirty Years War (1618–48) and never recovered. There is also some hop growing in the Baden, Bitburg, and Rheinpfalz areas, all near the Rhine River. The tradition of hop growing in these areas goes back centuries, but production is dwarfed by that of the other German areas.
The Hallertau, where almost 90% of all German hops are grown, is also a center of hop research and breeding. The Hüll Hop Research Institute near Wolnzach has been breeding hops since 1926 and has released many varieties.
The Elbe-Saale region has a centuries-old hop tradition. Nowadays, it generally produces about 10% of the volume of the Hallertau. Many of its current hop yards were established during the communist East German period. The main varieties are Hallertauer Magnum and other high-alpha hops as well as some plantings of Perle and other aroma hops.
The area around the town of Tettnang produces barely 5% of all German hops. It also has a tradition of growing fruit trees and wine grapes. Hop growing started there only in the mid-1800s. The region does have some written records of hop growing as early as 1150, but these early yards were never major producers. The town’s namesake Tettnanger hop is most closely associated with the area, but Hallertauer Mittelfrueh and Perle are grown as well.
Hop growing near the Franconian town of Spalt has been documented as early as 1341, and during the golden age of hop growing around Nuremberg in the 1500s, Spalter hops were especially prized. In addition to the region’s namesake hop Spalter, other varieties include Spalter Select and Hallertauer Mittelfrueh. The region accounts for less than 2% of all German hops.