History of Hop-growing and Brewing Industry
Hops originate from Asia. Already in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, people made beverages from grains and other plants. Dry hops were used in beer brewing also by old Slavic nations who brought it to our territory during their migrations.
As a culture, hops were already cultivated in the eighth and ninth century in France and Bavaria. At that time beer was brewed in monasteries, and hops were grown everywhere where there were breweries. Only later on did they start growing it in places that were optimal in terms of location, soil and climate. Hop-growing bloomed in the 16th century. In Europe, the centre of hop growing was in the Czech Republic and Bavaria.
The first mention of using hops for beer brewing on the Slovenian territory dates back around 1160 in a urbarium of a landowner from Škofja Loka. A turning point in the development of hop-growing on the Slovenian territory occurred during the reign of Maria Theresa, when between 1764 and 1767 farmers’ associations were established, which encouraged and promoted the introduction of various industrial plants, including hops. A more intensive cultivation of hops began after 1870 on the territory of the Lower Savinja Valley.
The first hop plantation in the Lower Savinja Valley was planted in 1876 at the Novo Celje Mansion by Josip Bilger, who was the mansion’s caretaker at the time. The official beginning of cultivation of the Savinja Golding variety of hops was in 1886 when Janez Hausenbichler and Karl Haupt performed their first tests.
Beer brewing industry also has a rich history in Slovenia. The first documents testifying to the brewing of beer on our territory date back to the 13th century. At the end of the 19th century, small breweries were quickly expanding across the land and the largest ones were capable of brewing up to 3,000 hl of beer. After WW1 all the Slovene breweries merged into a joint-stock company. Vrhnika and Mengeš stopped brewing beer in 1922, and the year 1925 was fatal for Kočevje, Kranj and Žalec. After WW2 three large breweries were established: Union, Laško and Talis. New smaller breweries started to appear, such as the Adam Ravbar brewery from Domžale, the Kratochwill brewery and others.
How's it Made?
Hops (Humulus lupulus L.) is a perennial industrial plant belonging to the Cannabaceae family, originating in Asia. It is cultivated for its bitter, sticky content – lupulin. Lupulin is a yellow pollen-like substance on the hop cone petals, containing the bitter aroma.
On the hop fields only female plants are grown; the part under the soil is the root, which is perennial, and the parts above the soil are the stem, main and lateral leaves and the flowers and cones – the fruit. All the parts above the soil are annual; in the autumn they die off and are cleaned from the field. In the spring, new sprouts start from the root. The male plants are repressed, as pollinated cones reduce the quality of produce.
Hops are picked in late summer (mid-August to beginning of September) when the content of the industrially interesting substances in the cones is optimal.
The majority of the produce is used in brewing industry as an addition in the production of beer, and a small portion of the hops produce is used in the production of medical and cosmetic products. In the production of beer, hops are an indispensable raw material, giving the beer its pleasant bitterness, fullness and aroma.
The most well-known Slovenian hop varieties are the Savinja Golding, Aurora, Bobek and Celeia.
Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world with a several thousand-year long tradition. The production processes have changed throughout history but the ingredients remain the same.
Ingredients of beer
- Hops are used in the brewing industry for a variety of reasons: It gives beer its distinctive flavour, especially bitterness and smell, and prevents its spoilage because it is a natural preservative. It also helps it retain its flavour and stabilises the foam.
- Malt is sprouted barley, which is used most often. Brewers also use wheat, rye and buckwheat. Malt is very important in beer brewing, as it releases sugar, which is crucial in the further processes of beer production.
- Yeast is another important ingredient. The yeasts ferment the beer and transform sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Yeast also impacts the aroma and flavour of the beer. We distinguish between top fermenting and bottom fermenting yeasts.
- Water is the final important ingredient of beer which affects all the production processes. However, even the best water cannot provide good beer without other quality ingredients and proper preparation. Only the right combination of all four ingredients makes an excellent beer.