Portrait of a Hops Vine


Portrait of a Hops Vine
  • Posted December 30, 2014

Origins

Hops is the plant that gives beer its uniquely tangy and slightly bitter flavor and has been cultivated in Europe for this purpose since the Middle Ages. Hallertau, a valley in the German state of Bavaria, is the cradle of hops culture and continues to be the world's biggest producer.

Personality

Though its stems rarely become thicker than a pencil, hops can grow 50 feet in a season, sprouting anew from a massive underground root system each year. Its flowers, which resemble a small, soft, green pinecones hanging upside down are the part that is harvested for beer.

Earthly Delights

The cultivation of hops and its use in brewing beer is an art and science on par with the craft of wine production. There are at least 80 distinct varieties in cultivation today, each imparting a characteristic flavor and aroma to beer that is discernible to connoisseurs.

Curiosities

Hops is technically a bine, rather than a vine, which means it wraps its tender stems around whatever support is available rather having a woody stem with side tendrils that provide support. Bines are genetically programmed to grow in a spiral fashion, either clockwise or counterclockwise as they climb toward the sky. In the case of hops, the bines spiral in a clockwise fashion.

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Brian Barth
About the Author

After 15 years as a professional landscape designer and horticulturalist, Brian Barth embarked on a second career to share his passion—and the knowledge he's accrued—through writing. His love of plants is all-encompassing, but he has a particular soft spot for culinary crops.


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Portrait of a Hops Vine
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