Hallertau Hop Region is only a fairly small triangle of land in Germany, some 70 km (43 mi) north of Munich in Bavaria, but it is the largest and perhaps most famous hop-growing district in the world. See german hops. Hops have been grown there at least since 768 ad, the date of the oldest preserved documentary evidence of hop gardens in the vicinity. But hop cultivation remained fairly modest in the Hallertau until the 16th century, when the use of hops as an exclusive beer flavoring became mandated for all of Bavaria by ducal decree. See reinheitsgebot. One of the noteworthy aspects of Hallertau hop farming has always been the small size of individual holdings, most of them family owned for generations. The number of hop farms in Germany has been in decline for several decades. Whereas there were more than 13,000 in the early 1960s, there are now not even 1,500 and fewer than 1,200 of these are in the Hallertau. The total hop acreage, however, has remained fairly constant because the average farm size has grown. Still, the average size of a hop farm in the Hallertau nowadays is about 13 ha (scarcely 32 acres). In the United States, by comparison, a hop farm of even several hundred acres is considered small. Still, the Hallertau region produces almost 90% of all German hops.
The Hallertau has traditionally been divided into 13 so-called sealing districts, each with its own official stamp to certify the authenticity of any hop shipment from the region. See hop seal. In 1992, an additional district, the Jura area across the Danube River, was added to the Hallertau, as was, in 2004, the Hersbrucker area, centered around the small town of Hersbruck, east of Nuremburg. Hersbruck is actually some 150 km (93 mi) distant from the Hallertau, but the objective of this amalgamation was largely to simplify statistics, given the relatively small size of the new districts. For instance, whereas Hallertau proper has about 15,000 ha of hops under cultivation, Hersbruck’s hop gardens do not even amount to 1% of that.
Perhaps the Hallertau’s most hallowed and traditional hop is Hallertauer Mittelfrueh, one of the four classic, European varieties often referred to as “noble.” See hallertauer mittelfrüh (hop) and noble hops. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh is an aroma variety whose production has seen many dramatic ups and downs during the 20th century. To cope with the vagaries of this finicky variety, the Hop Research Institute in Hüll was founded in 1926. It has since grown into a world leader in hop research and breeding. Some of the crosses that have come out of Hüll have become successful cultivars not only in the Hallertau but also elsewhere. See hallertauer taurus (hop), -->tradition (hop)">hallertauer tradition (hop), herkules (hop), hersbrucker spät (hop), opal (hop), perle (hop), saphir (hop), and smaragd (hop). However, because of terroir-related differences, such as the soil’s drainage characteristics, Hallertauer hops cultivated outside the region, including in the United States, may perform very differently from an agronomic perspective. Importantly, their aroma profiles may be very different as well. In the Hallertau, Hersbrucker Spät is considered a more disease- resistant alternative to Hallertauer Mittelfrueh. Hallertauer Tradition was developed as a German aroma hop designed for Anheuser-Busch. Hallertauer Magnum and Hallertauer Taurus are two higher- alpha bitter hop varieties. The English-bred varieties Northern Brewer and Brewer’s Gold were brought to the area in the 1950s because of an outbreak of the soil-borne fungus verticillium wilt, against which these British varieties have a well-tested resistance. See brewer’s gold (hop) and northern brewer (hop).
The Hallertau has long been an aroma hop area, but now high-alpha bittering hops are increasingly grown there as well. See alpha acids. Today, almost as much acreage in the Hallertau is devoted to bitter hops cultivation—mostly Hallertauer Magnum, Herkules, Taurus, Northern Brewer, and Nugget—as to aroma hops cultivation—mostly Perle, Hallertauer Tradition, Hallertauer Mittelfrueh, and Hersbrucker Spät.
See also nugget (hop).