Hops, or hopfen in the German language, are arguably the least well known of the ingredients in traditional beers. Hops are responsible for a wide range of flavors that can be present in a beer as well as for the level of bitterness exhibited by the beer. They also play a role in the stability of a beer — it’s shelf life so to speak. I was intrigued to increase my knowledge of this noble flower and one of the places where it comes from.
While planning to indulge in some “hopfen time” at the beginning of hops harvest time in Bavaria’s Hallertau, it became clear to me that lacking a car it would be difficult to get around. Hiking distances are too far to cover the distances I wanted to travel in the five days I had to spend there. My research on public transit options seemed to suggest that other than a weekend tourist bus, public transit was not an option for where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. My thoughts turned to bicycling and, more specifically, to my recently developed interest in e-biking.
For readers who are not yet familiar with e-bikes, they are a bicycle outfitted with an electric motor that kicks in while pedaling to level out the effort required to move the bike. As a result, pedaling up a hill feels closer to the same as pedaling on flat ground — a casual biker has a lesser challenge than they would have had without the assist. The rolling terrain of the Hallertau is well suited for e-biking and Germany’s well-developed network of bike paths and routes allow the rider to not have to mix with traffic too much of the time.
In planning the tour, I got great help from Susan Deckner of Hopfenland Hallertau Tourismus, the tourism bureau for the area. She connected me with Marcus Jäger of Tankstelle Scheyern, a service station near Pfaffenhofen that rents out e-bikes. Marcus was eager to help and made the whole process easy. He even picked me up and dropped me at the train station and served me a nice coffee when I arrived. Marcus speaks good English and we were able to make solid arrangements by e-mail correspondence. I would highly recommend his business to people looking to rent e-bikes in the area.
I had a short day on my arrival day so I did a short ride to Kloster Scheyern and the Hopfazupfa-Jahrtag, an annual festival demonstrating and honoring hops harvest traditions. Kloster Scheyern is a centuries old Benedictine Monasterey in a rural setting north of Munich. The Kloster Brauerei Scheyern is embedded within the monastery and has been brewing beers since 1119. The Hopfazupfa-Jahrtag seemed to me to be kind of a kick-off of the hops harvest season as well as a way to demonstrate and pass along traditions. It was held a short walk from the main part of the monastery in the courtyard of what looked like a stable building. The brewery made a special beer for the fest — a marzen called Hopfazupfabier. Like many beers I encountered in the Hallertau (not surprisingly) I thought I noted a bit more hoppiness than I think of in traditional Bavarian brews elsewhere. The festival was small, but vibrant and the use of fresh hops everywhere was a unique aspect.
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There is a hotel, restaurant, and terrace in the main monastery structure that provided a pleasant base for the visit to the brewery and Hopfazupfa. It’s an interesting combination – the peacefulness and tranquility of the kloster, a lively festival visit, and an excellent beer.
If my schedule allowed, I would have stayed longer to explore the Scheyern area and have another Hopfazupfabier or two. But following breakfast the next morning I loaded the bike and it was on to the heart of the Hallertau.