“It’s the king of strains”: Žatec hops make UNESCO list

Photo: David Hertl, Czech Radio

The northern town of Žatec and surrounding hop-growing landscape have just been granted UNESCO World Heritage status, becoming the 17th Czech entry on the list. Žatec is called Saaz in German and its distinctive Saaz hops are what have earned it this accolade. But what makes these hops so special? I spoke with the Prague-based US beer and travel writer Evan Rail.

“They’re just really high quality, in terms of the aroma and flavour, and they have been for about a thousand years. They’ve been prized around the world – especially around Europe – for their really delicate, gentle aroma.

“Hops can be quite strong, even overbearing, but they refer to this aroma of Saaz hops as really ‘noble’. There are only four, or arguably five, noble hop strains in the world, and Saaz is the king of them.”

Are most of these Saaz hops exported, or are they used here in Czechia?

“I actually don’t know the answer to that question. But I can tell you this: They are prized so much by people around the world that every year there’s a contingent of Japanese brewers, from some of the big Japanese brew houses, who come over and select their Saaz hops, right there in Žatec. They come and select them by what’s called ‘rubbing’ – they actually sense the aromas and decide which batch they want.

See the rest here.

Author: Ian Willoughby