Tettnang Hop Museum and a Profound Pilsner

Hop poles in Tettnang, Germany.

A short bus ride from the yachts and ice cream parlours of Lake Constance, up in the hills, lie the fields where the world famous Tettnang hops are grown, along with a small museum erected in their honour.

Apples in Tettnang.The Hopfen­Mu­se­um is easy to find, sit­ting at the end of a walk­ing route marked by infor­ma­tion boards bear­ing the smil­ing (sin­is­ter) face of Hop­fi, the bad­ly-drawn local car­toon mas­cot. We vis­it­ed after the hop har­vest and so found the fields bare, the wind caus­ing the wires sup­port­ing the huge poles to whine pathet­i­cal­ly. It was not as bleak as it might look from the pic­ture above: tons of effi­cient­ly cul­ti­vat­ed apples, pears and elder­ber­ries were still on their branch­es, pro­vid­ing Tech­ni­col­or high­lights.

On enter­ing the white­washed farm build­ing, we were struck at once by the most deli­cious aro­ma of recent­ly-packed hops – as intense as that per­fume fog that makes it hard to breathe in branch­es of Lush, only (for beer freaks, at least) much more pleas­ant.

Now, there are two main types of muse­um, as we see it: gleam­ing, grant-fund­ed inter­ac­tive learn­ing expe­ri­ences; and wonky local clut­ter­fests with shop man­nequins in moth-eat­en cos­tumes. The Hopfen­Mu­se­um is of the lat­ter vari­ety – charm­ing, but by no means slick.

The Hopfensau of Tettnang.
The ter­ri­fy­ing Hopfen­sau – much bet­ter than Hop­fi.

One of the high­lights is a gallery over­look­ing the hop-pro­cess­ing line with a cheesy video which explains how the pick­ing, pluck­ing and dry­ing machines do their thing. Else­where, we appre­ci­at­ed the numer­ous items of ephemera – labels, sacks, posters and so on – and anec­dotes and pho­tographs of the days when hop-pick­ing was a work­ing hol­i­day for town and city dwellers.

Bowls of hops gave us the oppor­tu­ni­ty to rub and sniff new vari­eties Man­darin and Polaris, part of an attempt by Ger­man grow­ers to com­pete with Amer­i­can hops. Man­darin smelled like man­darins (or was that the pow­er of sug­ges­tion?), while Polaris seemed to have a more com­plex pine-and-pith aro­ma.

At the end of our tour, we stopped, of course, for a drink at the on-site pub – a large wood-beamed, cosy place, crammed with elder­ly peo­ple on coach tours enjoy­ing cof­fee and cake.  The beer list is exten­sive, how­ev­er, with spe­cial­i­ties from all over the region in bot­tles, as well as a few ‘craft beers’ from Bra­u­fac­tum, and even a cou­ple of US imports. We found a cor­ner and ordered two glass­es of the beer of the month, Meck­atzer Zwickl­bier, sup­pos­ed­ly brewed with fresh Tet­tnang hops. Dark orange, cloudy, it tast­ed more of por­ridge than beer, and hops were lit­tle in evi­dence.

Kronen Keller-pils, Tettnang.

Back in Tet­tnang itself, we found a much bet­ter show­case for the local prod­uct in Kro­nen (Tet­tnanger) Keller-pils, which we enjoyed with Maultaschen (the local dumpling dish) at the brew­ery tap. It was tru­ly bit­ter and intense­ly per­fumed, but not at all flow­ery. Leafy, per­haps? We were remind­ed of the burst of fresh green­ness that comes from toma­to plants when they’re brushed against in a green­house. A real change from grapefruit/mango/peach/orange axis, at any rate. Per­haps, before they get on to IPAs, more Ger­man brew­eries should ensure they have a beer like this in their range?

An adult tick­et for the Hopfen­Mu­se­um costs €5 and it is open from 1 May until 31 Octo­ber. If you want to see hops on the bines, vis­it before late sum­mer. You can read more about Tet­tnang, the muse­um, and local tra­di­tions in Stan Hierony­mus’s For the Love of Hops, which is where we heard about it.

2 thoughts on “Tettnang Hop Museum and a Profound Pilsner”

  1. Tet­tnang is fast becom­ing one of my favourite hops, love­ly lemoni­ness to it which just sits so per­fect­ly with many pale cen­tral Euro­pean beer styles.

  2. Inter­est­ing. Try­ing to suss if you got that intense sul­phur taste I got in the great major­i­ty of helles and pils beers in Munich and Aus­tria a cou­ple of years ago. Look­ing at the oth­er reports too but don’t real­ly see it. As always taste is sub­jec­tive but I was struck by this forcibly when there – Urquell nev­er seemed to have it on the leg over to Prague, or Bud­we­si­er Bud­var though or Bernard, nor did many of the Ger­man-Aus­tri­an dunkels…

    Gary

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