While the hops plant, Humulus lupulus, has its origins in Northern Europe, we in South Africa have been farming with hops successfully for the last 80 years. Hops are one of the key ingredients in beer, bringing aroma and flavour as well as preservative qualities. Hops contain alpha acids, which give beer its bitter taste.
Hops were first introduced to South Africa in the 1650’s. Jan van Riebeeck planted the first hops garden at the Cape and in 1658 the first beer was brewed and only a year or two later the first wine was produced.
By developing our own cultivars in South Africa we are able to cultivate specific varieties suited to our climate. Our location and disease-free status attracts international interest. Hops cultivars like Southern Star, Southern Promise and Southern Dawn to name only few.
Hops are predominantly grown in the northern hemisphere between latitudes of 40 & 50° north. This climate typically comprises freezing winters and very long summer days. In South Africa all our hops are grown in the George area, which lies 34° south of the equator. The area’s mild temperatures, little frost and reasonable amount of rain suit the plant well.
Microbreweries in South Africa have evolved from a hobby into a countrywide trend that only grow year on year. At present there are over 60 microbrewers around the country turning hops, malt, yeast and water into beer.
Currently the Western Cape leads the movement of real beer, being beer that’s naturally brewed using artisan methods and with no chemical or artificial additives. Microbreweries like Robertson Beer, Mitchell’s Brewery, Jack Black Beer to only name a few have a wide menu range.