Beer, that refreshing drink we all love, has some very humble beginnings. Some say the ancient Egyptians brewed the first barrels of suds, others pin our fraternity binge-ing brew on the Babylonians. But beer didn’t get serious until the early middle ages when hops were added to balance the sweetness from the malt with a little bitterness, reduce spoilage, and improve the aromatic quality of the popular fermented drink. If this interests you as much as us, you would love visiting the Hops Museum, and it’s very close to Munich itself. Full of great information and hands-on activities, we loved it.
What Makes The Best Beer?
Germany has always been a leader when it comes to hops, first in the usage in their beer brewing process, and still today producing more hops than any other country. And with more than seven million annual Oktoberfest visitors drinking beer by the liter, the world needs tons and tons of hops! We’ve enjoyed beer all over Germany as well as some breweries in other countries where we learn a little about the beer culture and have a taste or two. For example, we toured the original Pilsen brewery in the Czech Republic, and then relaxing in a Czech beer bath. Beer is good for so many things!
Forget The Water It’s All About The Hops
Beer ingredients have changed little throughout the years, composed primarily of cereal grains and water, the only real differences were the flavoring ingredients used. Different herbs and flowers, even olive oil, were added at various times throughout the history of beer. Why was beer so popular? It’s simple really, the brewing process required boiling the water which removed or killed all the nasty bacteria and microbes that made the water otherwise unsafe. Of course, if your ancient civilization brew was lucky enough to have picked up some airborne yeast, that fermentation certainly helped the feel good aspect of the brew.
Beer as we know it today, however, comes from the German monks who were expert horticulturalist, master brewers, and deeply spiritual men often fasting for long periods. They needed a safe, filling, long lasting drink that could get them through the forty days of lent. According to the Hops Museum in Wolnach, Germany, hops was the key. Hops balanced the overly sweet flavor, added a floral aroma, and acted as a preservative, making the beer last longer in the barrel.
A Visit to the Hallertau Region – One of the Best Day Trips From Munich
Do you love beer? Which beer do you like the most? A wheat beer, a pils, a zoigle? Will you be going to the Oktoberfest to celebrate some of the best beer in the world? If so, then consider taking this easy day trip from Munich to the Hops Museum (Hopfenmuseum) and learn all about this crucial beer ingredient.
Visiting the Hops Museum is an easy day trip from Munich. It is located only 50 kilometers north of the city and is accessible by train or car. You can easily do the hops museum, walk around the town, and have a fantastic lunch. Just add it to your Germany itinerary. We’re always looking for day trips from Munich, like visiting Berchtesgaden or Dachau.
I have to admit, visiting the Hops Museum was never on the top of my to-do list, but after having gone I think it should be on everyone’s list…every beer lover’s for sure.
The museum is easy to locate in a gorgeous new building with a hops garden in the front and two wooden statues of pickers right by the entryway. Upon entering, we could hardly wait to go inside the giant hops cone, which explains the parts of the plant in vivid detail as well as touting the importance of the plant for human health. This is a theme throughout the first floor of the exhibit as it shows a historical progression from the middle ages until today, and what types of health properties people have believed are attributed to the plant that makes beer possible. It is true that hops is a healthy addition to the human diet and so it’s easy to understand that during fasting times, beer was so important. Those monks knew what they were doing!
Interactive Exhibits Make Learning Fun at the Hops Museum
In fact, the entire first floor is full of interactive exhibits as well as the early history of hops. Hops are climbing vines, which was one of our questions when we were heading to the museum. As you drive through the Hallertau region, you pass by field after field of hops, and they look almost like beanstalks until you get up close. They are laid out in rows of wooden poles with wires connecting to each other, grid-style. The hop is attached to the wire. One of the activities is to try to use the oversized pincers to lift the pole. Spoiler alert! It’s not easy and it’s extremely heavy.
Harvesting Hops, The Most Important Ingredient for Making Beer
Another activity is to try and make all the poles and wires work together on a model of one of the fields. Again, this looked much easier than it was, but after seeing some farmers pulling down their hop vines, it was clear that the poles and wires have to be precise. One farmer drives a tractor and pulls the vines off of the wires. If they are not strung correctly, then a vine gets missed and the second farmer behind has to pull in down by hand. When the vines are strung almost 20 feet high, this is no small task.
History, Products, Laws – All About Hops
As we proceeded to the second floor of the museum, we immediately noticed life-sized dioramas of local farmers planting, growing, and harvesting the hops. Each small area had a information (in both German and English) as well as a movie, artifacts, and enlarged historical photos. On the ground floor, we had felt and smelled the hops, which made our fingers a bit sticky, but in the past, once the hops were harvested, they had to be taken to market in burlap sacks longer than a human. A worker would have to jump down inside the bag when it was being filled to ensure the quality of the hops were up to standard as well as pack them down.
Like many well put-together museums, visiting the Hops Museum, one of Munich’s highlights could certainly put you on hops overload. But, because of the interactiveness, the short films, and the uniqueness of the product it was all fun.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 – 5:00
Cost – 5 Euros for each adult, and 2.50 for children
Audio Guide – which is available in many languages, including English, costs a mere 1.50 Euros and the narrative last a little over one hour.
By car: There are exits off autobahns A9 and A93 that say Wolnzach. It’s quite simple, and the road between the autobahn and the town is packed with hops fields. If you go at the right time, you will be amazed at the height of the vines.
By train: You can take a local train from Munich to Ingolstadt, but get off at at Rohrbach/Ilm. Trains run every hour. If you contact the museum beforehand to let them know you will need a ride to and from the train station, they will arrange it for you. I couldn’t believe this was a service.
Address: Elsenheimerstraße 2, 85283 Wolnzach
Lots to read about beer here!
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…and not in Munich
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