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Hops meet pharmacy

“Hey, that looks really nice!”

“Hops … – So does it taste of beer?“

“It isn’t all that sweet at all! I’ll take another one.”


– a small sample of one of my most recent Friday evenings, when I was showing off my loot from the Braukunst Live. Because this year my favourite souvenir is not beer, but a clear hop-based liqueur with a hint of orange – my friends were a bit sceptical at first, but very quickly developed a taste for it, so it all got drunk.

The “Hopfa” liqueur has established itself, then, the list for the first collective order is doing the rounds. And I caught up again with the Hopfa team, whom I met in Munich last February.


Your bottles make the Hopfa liqueurs a genuine eye-catcher – and at the same time tell us something about the products’ origins. When and how did the idea of a hop-based liqueur take shape?

His knowledge of hops, and the idea of blending regional products with the ancient apothecary’s craft, inspired the pharmacist Dr. Kurt Berndl to create his own hop-basedliqueurs. Their man ingredient is top-quality hop varieties from our Hallertau, Germany’s biggest hop-growing region, where hop farming and processing have centuries of tradition behind them. However, hops are primarily known as a bitter-savoury ingredient for beer, while their delicate taste nuances are hardly noticed at all. This was our starting point, and by careful extraction we reduced the amount of bitter substances in the hops, so that they can unfold their flowery, fragrant aromas. And so in 1997 the first hop-based liqueur with herbs was produced, back then still under the name of “Hopfa-Schmuser”.

Meanwhile there are four flavours. So is there a bestseller or a personal favourite?

This is really a matter of personal taste. We’re currently observing that we’ve made a big hit with our new cocoa variety. We’re really gratified to hear that many of our interviewees describe it as full-bodied, not too sweet and with a pleasant aftertaste. Another classic product is our orange liqueur with hops, which also tastes fantastic on ice with a slice of orange.

Are there any plans to add to the four liqueurs created so far?

Yes, sure. We keep coming up with new ideas that need trying out, and in addition we also get suggestions from our customers. We’re currently working on a new product, which we will be unveiling next year at the latest to mark our 20th anniversary.

How should we imagine the “creative process”? Do you simply try out which flavours go together well?

Most of our new hop-based liqueurs are created spontaneously. We come across a product somewhere that sounds interesting and then consider whether theoretically this flavour would go well with hops. If this is the case, then we produce an initial batch and see if it tastes nice.

And do you use different hop varieties too?

Yes, definitely, we use different hop varieties for different products. But we stay within the region, because it’s only the original Hallertau aroma hops grown here that give our hop-based liqueurs their distinctively unique taste.

“You” – who exactly are “you”? How large is your team and how far are you detached from or (still) linked to the Marien Pharmacy in Wolnzach?

Behind the Hopfa hop-based liqueurs stands a small family firm. Dr. Kurt Berndl & Family – each of them making his/her own contribution towards ensuring that our liqueurs can still be produced and bottled lovingly by hand. And the Marien Pharmacy is still involved, since after all this is where the hop-based liqueur originated. 

Hopfa comes from Wolnzach, the heart of the Hallertau. Do the people there acquire a love of hops in their cradles?

If you come from the Hallertau, or as we pronounce it round here, the “Holledau”, you will be familiar with hops from growing up with them ever since early childhood. There are hop fields everywhere, and when the hops are harvested in late summer, at the end of August, the beginning of September, then for a few weeks this distinctive fragrance of hops is wafted on the wind wherever you go.

How large should we imagine your production quantities to be? Do you still manage to handle production, filling, labelling and packing manually?

We’ve continually upsized our production in recent years. Thanks to successful exposure at the Finest Spirits and the Brewcraft Live in 2015 and 2016, we’ve improved awareness levels ? still further. We’re really gratified to see that our hop-based liqueurs are being so well received. Which is precisely why we shall continue to produce, bottle and label them by hand with plenty of loving care.

You can clearly taste the hops in your liqueur, but it isn’t bitter at all. Can you roughly outline for us why that is, and how your liqueurs are actually produced?

In our herbal liqueur, we use bitter roots and natural hops; this is where you taste the astringent flavour of the hops. For our other liqueurs, we use highly purified hop extracts, which no longer contain any bitter constituents. The liqueurs are produced by extraction from herbs, fruits or roots, and the admixture of distillates and plant extracts, which are then processed into liqueurs with water, alcohol and sugar. We use only the very best of ingredients, ones that meet our stringent quality standards and create the uniquely distinctive taste of our liqueurs.

I can imagine that you have a lot of fans, particularly in the surrounding region. At trade fairs like the Finest Spirits or the Brewcraft Live, though, you’re certainly gaining supraregional fans as well. How important is regionality to you?

Our regional roots are important to us, and not only because it’s here that our most relevant ingredients are grown. Of course, the Hopfa hop-based liqueurs are firmly rooted in the Hallertau. But it’s very nice to see that they are being exceptionally well received at trade fairs by visitors from outside the region too. Liqueurs are an underestimated category of spirits, and we’re proud that we can offer products which refute the ancient prejudice that liqueurs are sweet, viscous and feeble. If that’s what anyone thinks, they’re welcome to drop by for a tasting.

Finally: is there a special “recipe” recommendation we should most definitely try out with one of your liqueurs?

One really great taste experience is the Vesper Martini that James Bond enjoys in Casino Royale. We make it from 5 parts of vodka, 2 parts of gin and 1 part of Hopfa Herbs – decorated with a thin spiral of lemon peel. For the upcoming summer, we can also recommend the Hopfa Orange: with an ice cube and a small slice of orange, it tastes wonderfully refreshing.


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