Every Friday, we share a bit of info about beer—the ingredients, the equipment, the history—so that you can get to know beer a little better. We call it Beer Fact Friday. You should, too.
All hops, in our opinion, are highborn and worthy of the term “noble.” But only a select few get to hold the title: Hallertauer Mittelfrüh, Tettnang, Spalt, and Saaz. Those first three are all grown in Germany; Saaz is grown in the Žatec region of the Czech Republic.
Technically, the term “noble” was created in the U.S. sometime in the 1980s and has no enforceable meaning; it’s really just a nice bit of marketing meant to set a select few varieties apart from the hundreds of hops out there. But these four do have some things in common.
First, all of them are “landrace” hops, meaning they were domesticated from hops found growing wild in their respective regions (as opposed to the cross-breeding that brings to life most hop varieties today.) While each of them is unique, all of them feature elegant, herbal, floral aromas. They’re also brilliant examples of the effect of terroir on hops. Hallertau grown in New Zealand or Tettnang cultivated in the U.S. just won’t taste or smell the same as the version of the plant grown in its hometown.
Want to taste the Noble hops? You can find them in many European lagers; Saaz in particular is classic in Czech-style pilsners.