Real hops

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Real hops
Real hops (Humulus lupulus), illustration

Real hops ( Humulus lupulus ), illustration

Eurosiden I
Order : Rose-like (rosales)
Family : Hemp plants (Cannabaceae)
Genre : Hops ( humulus )
Type : Real hops
Scientific name
Humulus lupulus

The real hops ( Humulus lupulus ) is a plant species in the hop genus and is known for its use in beer brewing . It belongs to the hemp family (Cannabaceae).

Real hops were named Medicinal Plant of the Year 2007.

Wild hops

The wild form of real hops grows preferentially in nitrogen-rich locations with higher soil moisture, for example in alluvial forests , but also on the edges of forests and in bushes on drier areas. It rarely forms larger populations, but mostly occurs in small groups. In Central Europe it is a species of the plant-sociological order Prunetalia, but also occurs in societies of the Alno-Ulmion or Alnion associations. In the Allgäu Alps, it rises in the Tyrolean part near Elbigenalp to an altitude of 1036 meters.

The hops usually sprout in large numbers from a thick rhizome . They are thin, rough stems with anchor-like climbing hairs that have amazing adhesive power. These shoots are also known as vines and grow an average of 10 cm per day. As with all perennials , there is no continuous lignification of the plant. Hops is a legal Winder , the aerial shoots are annual and die after seed maturity. With a height of two to six meters, the wild form is smaller than the cultivated varieties 4–8 m; the inflorescences are also significantly smaller. Wild hops can be found almost everywhere in Central Europe, with smaller gaps in the Alpine foothills . The hop is a dioecious plant. The male inflorescence is a panicle , the female a cone-like spike .

In parks and gardens, the perennial creeper chokes off other, sometimes quite large, plants. Because of its widely ramified root system, through which the wild hops also reproduce, it is difficult to remove them.

The number of chromosomes is 2n = 20.

Wild hops as a food plant

The young hop shoots are very suitable as a delicacy with a fine resinous taste when they are cooked briefly, either in steam (for the still very tender ones) or in salted water (2–4 minutes). When harvesting, you can find out the correct length (approx. 10 to 25 cm) by running your fingers up the stem and bending it slightly. It then breaks off at a certain point and that is the right place, because the shoot is still tender enough from there upwards.

Culture hops

Hop umbel of a cultivar
Humulus lupulus 'Aureus'

The cultivars of real hops are cultivated for agriculture. The most important German growing areas are the Hallertau in Bavaria , the Elbe - Saale growing area in the federal states of Saxony , Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt , the Schussental between Tettnang and Ravensburg in Baden-Württemberg and the region around Spalt in Middle Franconia . The ears of wheat are called umbels in the hop industry and are used in beer brewing. However, the young shoots are also edible in spring and the seeds in autumn.

Fertilization by the pollen of male plants reduces the wort yield, shortens the harvest window (because overripe hop cones taste awful) and makes processing in the brewery more difficult. That is why the fields are completely pistillat (botanically feminine). The cones have the on the hidden surface sepals ( calyxes ) and bracts ( bracts ) resin beads from which one the yellow lupulin can win. It acts as a flavoring and preservative. A fundamental distinction is made between the bitter hop varieties and the aromatic hop varieties . The latter are characterized by the fact that their bitterness potential is significantly lower in concentration than that of bitter hops. For the brewing process mainly the so-called "α-acids", i. H. α-lupulinic acid or humulone and their derivatives, of importance; the "β-acids" β-lupulinic acid ( lupulon ) and its derivatives are important for the flavor aromas. The α-acid content of aroma varieties is around 3–9% compared to 12–20% for bitter varieties, but aroma varieties have significantly higher concentrations of highly aromatic ingredients such as essential oils or polyphenols .

Hops added early in the brewing process and boiled for a long time increases the hop yield, which is a chemical conversion of the α-acids into iso-α-acids; this makes the spice more bitter. When added later, a rather mild beer is created. Factors such as the type of hop product (pellets, extracts, etc.) or the strength of the boil and the extract content of the wort also influence the hop yield.

Hops just before harvest
Fruits of wild hops

Hops originally gained their importance from the fact that their bitter substances when brewing beer contributed significantly to the durability of the brew due to their bactericidal effectiveness. The antiseptic power of hops was already described in 1153 AD by Hildegard von Bingen with the words “putredines prohibet in amaritudine sua” (its bitterness prevents putrefaction).

The oldest written sources on hop growing come from the early Middle Ages. It is said that hop growing was first mentioned in 736 AD near Geisenfeld in the Hallertau; concrete sources exist for the years 768 ( St. Denis Monastery north of Paris), 822 ( Corvey Monastery ) and 859 to 875 ( Freising Monastery ). Hops were first mentioned as a brewing additive in 1079. In the High Middle Ages , Wollin , Breslau , Troppau , Brüx , Wismar , Braunschweig and Lübeck were added as the main cultivation areas.

Cultivation and harvest

Every year in spring from the end of March, hops are cultivated in the scaffolding of so-called hop gardens.

The plant is propagated vegetatively via cuttings , which are also called fechser .

Two or three shoots are placed around a wire as a climbing aid and grow to the usual scaffolding height of seven meters in Germany by the end of July. Newer and rediscovered varieties require different, mostly lower scaffolding heights and thus alternative, sometimes more advantageous equipment, which, however, requires a change and ultimately noticeably inhibits their assertiveness. When the ears of the female plant are ripe, the hop vines are cut off just above the ground and torn from the scaffolding during the roughly three-week harvest time (last August and first decades of September). While harvesting used to be done by hand, today picking machines are used for this. Then they are driven to the farm. There the cones are separated from the hops by picking machines. The soft and moist cones are in the kiln dried until it contains only about 11 percent moisture, then pressed and cooled. Often hops are processed into pellets (small, pressed cylinder pieces). In this way, the hops, packed airtight, have a longer shelf life. If it is packed too warm or not airtight, it quickly loses its volatile aromas and up to 35 percent of its brewing value in a year.


95 percent of the hops are mostly used in the form of hop pellets for beer production. It gives the beer its distinctive aroma and typical bitterness. The hops ingredients also have a calming , preserving and foam- stabilizing effect . Only the umbels of the female hop plants are used for brewing . One to four grams of hops are needed for one liter of beer. With the green hop pils, the hops are processed directly from the harvest without drying.

Occasionally, hops are used to enrich the flavor of some liqueurs and schnapps, and hop lemonade is now also produced.

A small proportion of the hops harvested are used for medicinal purposes, mainly as a sedative .

Hops are also used in many old libraries as protection against moisture and vermin . Hop cones are laid out behind the books. They regulate humidity , and their essential oils keep insects away. The cones must be changed every few years.

For some years now, the harvest of hop asparagus has been gaining in importance again. During a two to three week period in March and April (depending on the weather), the white, freshly sprouted shoots of the hops are dug out of the ground and offered regionally as a specialty. The very short season and the time-consuming harvest, because it is done by hand, make the hop asparagus one of the most expensive vegetables grown in Germany.


Lupulin glands
Classification of hop resin

The value-determining components of the hop umbel are a resin fraction (hop bitter substances) and an essential oil , the hop oil. It also contains raw fibers (15%), proteins (20%) and mineral components (8%), polyphenols ( tannins ) (2–5%).

salary based on hop cones related to hop glands
resin 15-25%
Hop oil 0.2-0.5%

0.3 - 1%
0.05 - 1.7%

1 - 3%

The female inflorescences are the so-called hop cones Lupuli strobulus (2.5 - 5 cm), which carry the dry-skinned bracts . These in turn are covered by glandular hairs the size of a grain of sand, which contain the yellow to reddish resin. The resin is located in the hop glands Lupuli glandula ( hop flour, hop dust , lupulin), which are obtained by tapping or shaking the hop cones . The hop resin is divided into two resin fractions, the hop glands contain about 50-80% hexane- soluble soft resin and, on the other hand, the hexane- insoluble hard resin . In the early 19th century the resin was extracted with water, ethanol, steam or carbon disulfide . With increasing research into the constituents of the resin and its lipophilic components, more effective solvents such as acetone , chloroform, alcohol or hexane were used from then on . Because of the fear of harmful solvent residues, supercritical carbon dioxide was then used.

The extraction of the resin provides the crystallizable, oxidation-sensitive hop bitter acids:

  • Humulones (α-hop bitter acids) with a bitter taste, and the structurally related ones
  • Lupulones (β-hop bitter acids) that are not bitter.

The hop acids make up about half of the resin. They are very unstable and only contained in fresh hops, but not in stored goods. During the spice boiling (beer production), but possibly also during the pharmaceutical drug extraction, strongly bitter iso-compounds, the isohumulones, arise due to the ring narrowing. During the storage of the drug, various compounds are formed from the hops bitter substances through oxidative degradation, including 2-methyl-3-buten-2-ol , for which sedating effects were found in animal experiments. The resin also contains chalcones (xanthohumol), 0.5-1.5% flavonoids and 2-4% tannins . The yellow colored xanthohumol - for which a chemopreventive effect has been proven - occurs specifically in hops and is an analytical lead substance; During the brewing process, however, this is largely converted into isoxanthohumol .

More than 150 individual substances are known to occur in hop oil, among which mono- and sesquiterpenes (e.g. myrcene , humulene and β- caryophyllene , farnesene ) and various fatty acid esters should be emphasized. Depending on the proportion of the main terpenes, a distinction is made between myrcene and humul-rich hop varieties. They largely determine the beer aroma.

Hops contain small amounts of estrogen-active substances , among which the most potent than the flavonoids belonging hopeine (8-prenylnaringenin) was identified. Hop cones are also said to have an antimicrobial and tuberculostatic effect.

Pharmacological effects

Real hops in the form of the flower drug (Lupuli flos)

Pharmaceutically used drugs are the hop cones ( Lupuli flos , strobuli Lupuli , strobulus Lupuli ) where it is dried, whole female is inflorescences, and hop glands ( Lupuli glandula , hop powder, lupulin ), which screened from the seed heads glandular hairs. Hop glands are a greenish-yellow sticky powder that smells aromatic and tastes bitter spicy. They are obtained by knocking out the hop cones. In pressed form, the hop glands are used as hop hash (lupu hash), incense or for smoking.

Preparations made from hop cones are used as a light sleep aid and sedative. Hop extracts are commercially available as finished medicinal products, often mixed with other herbal sedatives such as valerian . Their effectiveness has been confirmed by Commission E of the BfArM .

Which ingredients are responsible for the effect has not yet been fully clarified. First of all, the bitter substances in hops should be mentioned. The combination of the substances humulone and lupulone during storage, processing and / or in the human body results in 2-methylbut-3-en-2-ol , which is probably responsible for the calming effect. The compound also has an antibacterial effect. The corresponding preservative effect plays an important role in beer brewing . The bitter substances also stimulate gastric juice secretion, which is why hops are used in folk medicine for loss of appetite and digestive problems.

In aromatherapy , hop blossoms are used as "aroma pillows" or hop extracts as bath additives. An estrogenic effect of hops is mainly due to the content of hopein (8-prenylnaringenin). The substance acts as an agonist on the estrogen receptor .

Fresh hop cones can cause allergic reactions if they come into contact with the skin (hop-picking disease).

Hop varieties

Hop growing at the guild house of the Berlin brewers with 16 different hop varieties

There are several hundred hop varieties worldwide, although not all of them are currently of economic importance.


83.3% of the varieties grown on German hop fields are varieties from the Hüll Hop Research Center . In 2019, 44 hop varieties were commercially cultivated in Germany - and the trend is still increasing.

Most important bitter varieties

  • Hercules
  • Hallertau Magnum
  • Polaris
  • Hallertau Taurus
  • Nugget
  • Hallertau Mercury

Most important aroma varieties

Local varieties:

  • Hallertau Mittelfrüher
  • Hersbrucker late
  • Splitter
  • Tettnang


  • pearl
  • Hallertau tradition
  • Spalter Select
  • sapphire
  • Mandarina Bavaria
  • Northern Brewer
  • opal

Aromatic hops are among the highest quality and most expensive types of hops, because they contain a much more pronounced spectrum of aromas than is the case with the bitter hops usually used. During the brewing process, aroma hops develop an extraordinary aroma intensity that gives the beer even more "body". It makes it spicier, more aromatic and full of character. However, aroma hops have a lower yield of bitter substances, which also play an important role in the brewing process. You therefore need a significantly larger amount. This is why this type of hops is - also from an economic point of view - the highest quality that can be used for brewing beer. The higher hop addition brings more xanthohumol into the wort or the beer, although bitter varieties have a higher xanthohumol content. Many breweries still only use bitter hops. For a long time, the finest aromatic hop varieties were the old local varieties “Hallertauer Mittelfrüher”, “Spalter”, “Tettnanger”, “Hersbrucker Spät” and the Bohemian “Saazer”, which are, however, very sensitive to fungal diseases and pests.

New hop varieties

In Tettnang and Hallertau, new varieties have been cultivated since 2013, which have been marketed for several years as Special Flavor Hops ( varieties of hops with natural fruity flavors that have been bred since 2006). In the meantime, however, these new breeds are listed and used as completely normal aroma varieties; the most important of these modern cultivars are

  • Mandarina Bavaria (fruity aroma with a particularly strong mandarin note)
  • Hüll Melon (distinctive honeydew melon and strawberry notes)
  • Polaris (intense fruity aroma with a note similar to that of a "glacier ice candy")
  • Hallertau Blanc
  • Ariana
  • Callista


  • admiral
  • Boadicea
  • Bramling Cross
  • Challenger
  • English Fuggle
  • First gold
  • Goldings
  • Herald
  • Northdown
  • Phoenix
  • Pilgrim
  • progress
  • Sovereign
  • Target
  • Whitbread Golding

Growing areas

Over 1100 years of hop cultivation in Germany, German commemorative stamp 1998 .

The three leading hop-growing countries are now the USA , Germany and the Czech Republic . In 2016, the estimated hop harvest in the Hallertau was 36,500 tons.

In historical comparison, the world harvest in 1928 was 60,300 tons; 14,900 tons of this came from the USA, 12,300 tons from Great Britain, 9,430 tons from Czechoslovakia and 8,370 tons from the German Empire .


In Germany there are six larger hop growing areas that produce a total of 18,598 hectares (as of 2016). The following figures indicate the proportion of the total area in Germany:

  • Hallertau 83.3% (Bavaria)
  • Elbe-Saale 7.5% (Thuringia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt)
  • Tettnang 6.5% (Baden-Württemberg). See also Tettnang Hop Trail .
  • Gap 2.0% (Bavaria, Middle Franconia)
  • other German growing areas in total less than 1%
former growing areas
  • The hop growing area of ​​the Upper Palatinate around Schmidmühlen , documented since the 15th century, existed until the 1930s. The reason for the cessation of cultivation was the copper fire that first appeared there in 1867 , which forced many hop farmers to give up.
  • The cultivation of hops for areas and places in the former Kingdom of Hanover and the Duchy of Braunschweig (Hannoversches Wendland, Braunschweig, Peine, Hanover, Schladen, Alfeld), in the Duchy of Oldenburg (Ammerland), in Schleswig-Holstein (before 1867 belonging to Denmark) has been handed down. , in Mecklenburg (Rostock, Parchim, Grabow, Neubrandenburg) and in parts of Brandenburg-Prussia (Altmark, Bukkow near Berlin, Guben, Posen, West and East Prussia).


In Austria with a total of 248 hectares of cultivation area (as of 2016) there are three cultivation areas:

While significantly more hops were grown up to 1939, today only 23% of the country's needs can be met domestically.


In Switzerland there is a total of 18 hectares of cultivation area, only around 10% of the country's needs can be covered by domestic production in 20 agricultural businesses.

United States

With 21,433 hectares (as of 2016), around a quarter of the world's acreage in North America is in the US states of Idaho , Oregon and Washington; 4,054 tons of alpha acid were obtained from the 2016 hop harvest.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic ranks third worldwide with 4,945 hectares. The most important hop-growing area is near Žatec ( Saaz ), others near Úštěk ( Auscha ) and Dubá ( Dauba ) and Tršice ( Tirschitz ).

other countries

Hop growing of international importance also takes place in the People's Republic of China (2,508 ha), in Poland (1,524 ha), in Slovenia (1,528 ha), in the Ukraine (369 ha) and in England (928 ha). Other European countries with low, but sometimes regional, hop growing importance are France (453 ha, which are mainly cultivated in Alsace ), Spain (534 ha mainly around the city of León ), Romania (282 ha), Belgium (155 ha, especially in the area of Poperinge , West Flanders Province ) and Slovakia (137 ha). In addition, hops are grown on around 412 hectares in New Zealand , most of which is exported. As a result of New Zealand's breeding efforts, these high quality varieties fetch comparatively high prices. In Australia it is 488 ha and in South Africa 402 ha. (All data as of 2016.)

Diseases and pests

On the damage caused by fungal diseases include the True and the downy mildew and the Hopfenrußtau. Earth flea beetles and spider mites are animal pests. The hop aphid or hop aphid or Phorodon humuli are among the other pests in the event of mass infestation .


For many years, hops have been regarded as one of the most widely price-fluctuating goods (around 1 in 10), a fact that makes both hop growing and hop purchasing into economically risky undertakings.

The Barth-Haas-Group is the world market leader as a supplier of hops and a manufacturer of hop products .


Cultural traditions are also linked to hop growing such as B. the choice of a hop queen.



Historical illustrations

See also


  • Karl Borde (Ed.): Hop . German Landwirtschaftsverlag, Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-331-00110-4 .
  • Hans Kohlmann, Alfred Kastner: The hops . Hop publishing house, Wolnzach 1975.
  • Joachim Friedrich Tresenreuter: Economic and legal treatise on the hops . Lochner, Nuremberg 1759. (digitized version)
  • Martin Biendl, Christoph Pinzl: Medicinal plant hops. Applications - effects - history . German Hop Museum, Wolnzach 2007.
  • Ingrid and Peter Schönfelder : The new handbook of medicinal plants. Franckh-Kosmos Verlagsgesellschaft, 2004, ISBN 3-440-09387-5 .
  • K. Hiller, MF Melzig: Lexicon of medicinal plants and drugs. 2nd Edition. Spectrum Academic Publishing House, 2010, ISBN 978-3-8274-2053-4 .

Web links

Commons : Humulus lupulus  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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  3. Meret Bissegger: My wild plant kitchen . Photos by Hans-Peter Siffert. 3. Edition. AT Verlag, Aarau / Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-03800-552-0 , p. 42.
  4. ^ Association of German Hop Growers eV
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  7. hops
  8. Frequently asked questions
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  21. According to the Barth / Haas Report 2017/18, Herkules is the hop variety with the largest cultivation area in Germany
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