Development of new hops varieties in the Czech Republic and new opportunities in brewing

Technical Session 13: Hops III Session
Jiri Smetana, ARIX Co. (Zatec, Czech Republic)

ABSTRACT: Until 1994, only a single hop variety was cultivated in the Czech Republic—the world-renowned fine aroma hop Saaz. It is a traditional Czech variety and has been exported to breweries in Europe and overseas since the 19th century. Over the years many premium brands have used this variety. Significant changes in brewing technology in the 1990s, e.g., installation of cylindroconical tanks, HGB systems, reduction of the bitterness of beer, etc., encouraged Czech hop growers to develop new varieties. In 1994, the first new varieties Sladek and Bor were developed. Sladek proved to be suitable for second hopping, giving the beer additional bitterness and an aroma similar to Saaz hops. In 1996 a further variety, Premiant, was developed. This variety is primarily used as a second hop gift for “mainstream beers.” Later, Czech hop growers focused on two broad directions. 1) Development of Czech high alpha-acid varieties that would also be suitable for base hopping in the form of pellets or an extract. This led to the development and registration of Agnus (2001), Rubin (2007), and Vital (2009). 2) Development of an aroma variety that would provide a specific feel to the resulting beer, significantly distinguishing it from other products. This led initially to the development of Harmonie (2004), which has a balanced profile of bitterness due to the ideal 1/1 ratio of alpha- and beta-bitter acids. Another variety, Kazbek (2009), was developed by the unique breeding of Saaz and wild hops from the Caucasian mountains. The resulting variety is very durable, stable under changing climatic conditions, and gives a distinguished earthy aroma to beer. In tastings it has also been described as “herbal,” “natural,” or “wild.” Recently, partially due to economic reasons, research has focused on finding “more economical variants” of the traditional Saaz and Sladek varieties. At the end of 2010, the Saaz Late variety, a second generation of the traditional Saaz variety with a higher alpha-acids content and similar aroma profile, and the Bohemie variety, a second generation of Sladek with an alpha-acids content of about 6% and mild, pleasant aroma with typical Saaz character, were developed and registered.

Jiri Smetana graduated from the Faculty of Brewing at the Institute of Chemical Technology of Prague in 1994. He has worked in the hop industry as a technician, purchasing manager, and sales manager of reality trading and, later, Saaz hop products. In 2004 he co-founded the hop company ARIX, and is a partner there today. He also manages the largest hop farm in Europe as the chair of the board of PP Servis.