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Love can be so pragmatic

She doesn’t just like him a bit.

No, she loves him so much that she sacrifices huge amounts of time for him, and is even prepared to travel round the world for him. Two or three times a week, she’s out and about for him and with him, and that’s in addition to her day job. He’s not unattractive, though: slim, tall and that fragrance – you can go into raptures quite easily. A definite eye-catcher indeed.

So who exactly is Johanna Reith’s inseparable, faithful companion?


It’s the hop plant, in all its different types, variations and processing options. A funny sort of companion, you think? Not for a Hop Queen! Because since August 2014 the 22-year-old has been the “ruler” of Hallertau, Germany’s premier hop-growing region, and in her office represents the crop and the region worldwide.

Despite all her passion and enthusiasm, however, Johanna is emphatically not a starry-eyed romantic, who idealises “her” hops or is tempted into flowery descriptions of aromas. Quite the contrary. When I ask her what she likes so much about hops, the answer is immediate: “That they grow so quickly. It’s good for business!” What’s more, Johanna thinks it’s great that hops are such an adornment to the rural scenery – and she’s certainly right there: the long poles with the hops climbing up them are a genuine contrast to the flat fields around them. Talking of contrast – diversity is something that she quite generally likes about hops as a raw material: not only all those different varieties, but also the innumerable products they can be used to make. Beer springs to mind immediately, of course, but is quickly followed by products like tea, cosmetics, natural remedies or liqueurs.



She probably gets her pragmatic, business-driven viewpoint, as well as her enthusiasm for hops, from her parental home and her childhood – Johanna comes from one of Wolnzach’s last hop-farming families, which means she’s a true child of this hop-growing stronghold. There, of course, she always used to lend a hand, especially with twisting the hops (which means winding their shoots round the wires of the poles). This laborious task has had a lasting impact on Johanna and her attitude to hops, as I notice when I put my next question. So what is her favourite variety, I ask – and expect a paean of praise for a particularly fruity or intensive aroma. But here, too, her entrepreneurial mindset and her practical attitude tip the balance. “Oh, definitely the Hercules.” Why? “Because it has such a high yield. And is the easiest one to twist. And it bears beautiful cones as well.“

But this doesn’t mean that she doesn’t care about the aromas! Johanna even delights in trying out different beers, and is always pleased when she gets a chance to taste something special. So her trip to the CBC in Portland was an ideal opportunity. Together with the Hop-Growers Confederation, she was an active visitor to the fair, and learned all kinds of new things about the craft beer movement. After that, there were a few days left to tour some of Oregon’s numerous breweries before returning to Bavaria. She approves of the craft beer trend anyway, not only because of all the exciting new beer flavours. After all, it benefits the hop industry as well: the diversity is progressively increasing thanks to new flavour hops, while intensified efforts are being made to breed new varieties. With a laugh, she remarks that in fact it’s also a good thing that for many of the new types large quantities of hops are needed – you can’t help noticing how much that cheers her, and how delighted she is that this boom effect is starting to show up in her regional homeland as well.


The present Queen remains in office until August, whereupon the Hallertau Trinity of Queen, Vice-Queen and Princess will be elected anew. Johanna will then again have more time for her actual job as a back office executive – though she’s probably never going to lose contact with hops altogether. After all, there’s more than enough work to do at home, and a whole lot of hops that are waiting to be twisted.

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