I really caught Tom Nielsen’s Beer Advocate piece on Slovenian hops. It sheds light on a beautiful and mysterious country, whose reputation for hops, outsizes the actual scale of its hop production. In addition to hops, and First Ladies, Slovenia is also known for producing Olympic medalists (Winter Olympics anyway), ranking second only to Norway on Per Capita medals, and to Belarus on Medals per GDP in the 2014 Sochi Games. That is a story for another time, but one can’t ignore it descending from the alps into the Savinja Valley. As a brewer, and a hop head, I have long appreciated the hops coming out of Slovenia. While the Fuggle type descendants are wonderful, it is the newer cultivars that really piqued our interest.
We have been visiting growers in Slovenia for several years for hop selection, and always make a point of stopping at the Inštitut za Hmeljarstvo in Pivovarstvo Slovenije (Slovenian Institute of Hop Research and Brewing) to see what’s new, and what is coming down the breeding pipeline. Styrian Wolf has been a favorite with its sweet tropical fruit character, aromas of mango, cassis, berries, and hints of violet. We are really excited about Styrian Fox and its juicy citrus, tropical fruit, and spicy-herbal top-notes. It was Styrian Dragon, named for the mythical creature that adorns the bridge of the same name in Slovenia’s capitol, Ljubjana, that really “wowed” exhibiting fleshy fruit, berries, passion-fruit, melon and sweet pepper. All 3 three, quite interesting and complex, but with a subtlety and finesse characteristic of old world cultivars. We’re looking forward to getting these in the hands of more brewers!