Styrian Hops in the 1920’s

Recently, I came across “Handbuch der Brauerei und Mälzerei”, published as three books from 1930 to 1935 by author Franz Schönfeld, who some of you may know as the author of “Die Herstellung obergähriger Biere” from 1902 and its updated version “Obergärige Biere und ihre Herstellung” from 1939.

This “manual of brewing and malting” is more technical, and focuses on beer ingredients (first book, published in 1930), malting (second book, published in 1932), and brewing (third book, published in 1935). When going through all three, I found a list of common hop varieties and their distinction which I think reflects hop varieties around that time quite well.

What particularly caught my eye was the list of hop varieties that were derived from Saazer hops, which in this book is described as one of the finest hops, what is nowadays known as “Saazer Formenkreis”. According to these list, it includes the following hops:

  • Schwetzinger (from Schwetzingen in Baden-Württemberg)
  • Tettnanger (from Tettnang at Lake Constance)
  • Neutomischler (from Nowy Tomyśl in Poland)
  • Auschaer Rothopfen (from Úštěk/Auscha in Bohemia)
  • Steirer (from Styria, in particular Lower Styria in Slovenia)

The last one was particularly interesting, because it solved a big question that I asked in 2016, what hop varieties used to be grown in Austria (and formerly Austrian lands) before Styrian hops were replaced with Styrian Goldings due to an issue with hop disease, and before Upper Austrian hops were uprooted.  As it turns out, the hops grown in Styria were simply Saazer with local terroir!

There’s still another question surrounding Styrian hops, and that is when the change from Saaz-derived Styrian hops to Fuggles-derived Styrian Goldings due to an alleged hop disease issue happened. Many source say in the 1930’s, and at least major cases of downy mildew can be corroborated through the Joh.Barth&Sohn-issued annual hop reports: in the 1934/35 report, Poland and Yugoslavia are mentioned as two countries who have been indifferent about Peronospora (downy mildew) in the past and now have to pay the price for it through crop failures. But (Styrian) Goldings are mentioned in earlier issues of the same report: the 1931/32 report mentions both Goldings and “late hops” being picked in Slovenia. The 1926/27 report mentions both varieties, with the “late hops” only being grown on 90 hectares (ha) of a total of 1150 ha of hop gardens in Slovenia. The “late hops” suffered from Peronospora, while the quality of the Goldings was good. Earlier Barth reports give no insight into which hop varieties were grown.

So what we do know from these reports is that the change from the old Styrian variety to the newer Styrian Goldings variety must have happened in the years before 1926/1927. During that time, Slovenian hop farming went through huge changes: where Styria grew 1788 ha of hops in 1914, that area had shrunk to just 855 ha in 1917, and to a mere 400 ha in 1919. From then on, the hop acreage grew dramatically to 850 ha in 1924 and reached its peak of 3000 ha in 1928. In 1930, it took another drop to 1380 ha, but slowly recovered to 1850 ha in 1937, roughly the size before World War I. During these many ups and downs, it is very likely that new hop gardens were planted with Styrian Goldings, whereas old hop gardens that were abandoned were more likely old Styrian hops. But this is more speculation on my side, so that question when this change really happened is still unanswered.

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