Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bavaria Part 2

From Bamberg, we headed to Nuremberg, but all of the doors were really small there so we didn't stick around for very long. Saturday morning we drove into the Hallertau region. There was no doubt where we were, even if we had missed the sign, as both sides of the highway were lined with hop farms.

We met up with Martin Schoettl-Pichlmaier at Hopsteiner in Mainburg. Martin's family has a hop farm and part of his job at Hopsteiner is driving around to different hop farms and buying hops from them. He was extremely knowledgeable, very friendly, and gave us an incredible 6 hour tour. After lunch (thanks Martin!) he took us to a 35 hectare hop farm where he showed us the farm's hop picking equipment, kiln, bales of hops, and much more. Next, Martin took us to the Hopsteiner pelletization plant, where we got an impressive, in depth tour of one of the world's largest hop pelletization facilities. We toured the elaborate process for both Type 45 and Type 90 pellets, where one of the plants operators showed us kilns, separators, mills, sieving, cooling, homogenization, packaging, and more. Next stop, was one of the massive Hopsteiner high-rise cold warehouses. The temperature and oxygen content are adjusted to preserve the hops in the fully automated warehouse. After that, Martin took us to the extraction plant where hop extract products are made, and finally we compared some different hop varieties.

That evening, Martin invited us to a small festival in the same village as the hop farm he had taken us to. We were definitely the only non-natives (although there was a German guy who showed us his US driver's license) in the beer hall that night, but apparently Jim Koch had been to the same annual party some years ago. After what was probably the most German experience I've had to date, we made the trip the rest of the way to Munich.

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