HVG Germany: Hopfen



History of Hop Production - 20th Century

The hop and brewing industry experience rapid changes in the 20th century. Three epochs become apparent. The following events above all affect those participating in the hop market in Germany. :

1900 bis 1933

Brewing industry:
At the beginning of the century the USA, Germany and Great Britain are producing the biggest volumes of beer. The worldwide output is around 200-250 million hectolitres. Inventions such as the steam engine, artificial refrigeration and the first beer filters provide the sector with tremendous impulses.
The first yeasts bred in pure culture are a success. The College for Brewery Science is founded in Weihenstephan. From here the secret of good beer is spread all around the world. The beginning of beer's triumphant success. Then the industry suffers two enormous setbacks: World War I breaks out and the prohibition law is passed in the USA.

Hop trading
The breweries purchase mainly leaf hops. The quality Is determined by hand evaluation. There are many reloading points for the "green gold". At the beginning of the century the most important hop market is in Nuremberg: more than 400, mostly Jewish merchants sell hops there. With the outbreak of war in 1914 the export trade collapsed. The purchase of hops increasingly shifts to the production regions, abroad especially to the USA. The Nuremberg hop market loses its significance. It Is closed in 1930. In this year there are still 171 hop-trading firms operating in Nuremberg, 120 of them in Jewish hands.

Hop production in Germany
At harvest-time a real mass migration occurs. Up to 200,000 workers assist in manually harvesting the hops! At the beginning of the century 50,000 hop farms are flourishing. Then in 1908 overproduction results in a dramatic drop in prices. The hop acreage is reduced to just under 29,000 hectares. In 1918, after World War I, only 9,000 hectares are still under hops, i.e. less than a third. The hop production recovers only very slowly. In 1926 downy mildew (peronospora), a dreaded fungal disease, almost entirely destroys the crop. As a result the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Hopfenforschung is founded. In 1929 the Hop Provenance Law is passed in Germany.