To See Into the Future Inside the Old World’s New Hop Breeding Programs – Michael Kiser

Posted: October 10, 2019 at 3:44 pm

Something like pineapple, I say. Lychee. Loads of tropical fruit.

Lutz nods, his fingers stained chartreuse with lupulin, a bright green fleck of hop cone stuck to his neatly trimmed mustache. He inhales again.

Maracuja, he says. He nods and smiles. And apricot. Thats Callista.

As in wine, Old World hops are known for their relative restraint and subtlety, versus the bombast of New World varietals. Think of the four, acclaimed noble hopsSaaz, Tettnanger, Spalt, and Hallertauer Mittelfrhthat have made Continental Lagers famous for centuries. But across Europe, hop breeders like Lutz are working to develop an array of exciting new cultivars that stray far from the refined, elegant aromas of tradition. In the place of gentle, cedary notes, these hops might throw off tons of maracuja (also known as passion fruit). Instead of orange blossoms, some of these new hops offer an entire forest of pine trees. Where you might expect delicate spice, you instead get a wacky fruit salad, filled with peaches, melons, and grapes.

While such unusual aromas are probably the most interesting aspects of new hop varieties for beer lovers, breeding programs like those of the Hop Research Center have goals far beyond mere aromaswhich makes a lot of sense when you remember that this institute was founded in 1926, long before the age of tropical-fruit IPAs.

On our walk through the Hop Research Centers greenhouses, laboratories and nurseries, the programs research director, Dr. Elisabeth Seigner, outlines its origins.

In those days it was founded because the growers had great problems with downy mildew. All across Europe, downy mildew was a real problem with all the landrace hops, she explains. While treatments with copper hydroxide helped with the disease, the institute started crossbreeding the traditional hops of the region with wild varieties, which have a natural tolerance for downy mildew. Chemical protection was very effective, but even in those days, we started breeding research, she says.

Today, the breeding program for new cultivars is just one of the institutes five main areas of focus, which also include plant protection, organic hop production, hop analysis, and a hop production advisory service. (Put another way: the institute creates new hops, tests hop pesticides, figures out how to grow hops without any pesticides at all, studies the chemical components of hops, and consults with farmers on their hop farms, working right in the middle of Germanys largest hop-growing region.) Since its humble origins in the fight against mildew on traditional noble hops, the breeding program at Hll has grown into one of the largest in the world.

We are the institute with the highest number of crosses per year100 crosses per year, Seigner says. The next year 100,000 seedlings are raised in the greenhouse, and then they are raised in our kindergarten.

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To See Into the Future Inside the Old World's New Hop Breeding Programs - Michael Kiser

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