Blogiartikkelit Lidija Bitz Maatalous

Craze for craft beers has exploded recently. They are produced in microbreweries and every single beer is one of a kind. Consumers have become hungry for new quality tastes and this trend is still going strong. Local homemade beers are wanted more than ever.

Finland is not an exception. Having only a few microbreweries not more than a decade ago, the number of them raised up to over 100 in 2017. This increasing demand shaped up the request for local aromatic hops that can be used in breweries. The need for Finnish hops is bigger than ever before!

Hop cones are mainly used for beer brewing giving beer its distinctive bitterness and aroma. Photo: Jouni Hakalahti.

Hop (Humulus lupulus L.) is a climbing plant which belongs to the Cannabaceae family and is thus related to cannabis and nettle. It is dioecious and its cone-like female inflorescences – hop cones – are mainly commercially exploited in the brewing industry. Resins from lupulin glands within cones have essential ingredients to beer. Synthesized alpha acids give beers their bitterness, while strong smelling terpens give them their unique aroma.

Finnish hops are a big surprise to the rest of the world. “It can’t be! They do not grow so north”, said our colleagues from Slovenia, a country that is in the top 10 of the world’s hop producers. Yes, they do! Hops can be found in different parts of Finland and they grow even in the Arctic Circle. It is not only that they are growing all over the country, but they are also giving the yield – the precious cones. Moreover, hop is not a new plant in Finland, but has been cultivated in the medieval times and used for making beer. Male plants can also be found, and the pollen that is circulating nowadays may be coming from thousands of years ago. Hop is native to Finland.

Finnish hops are a big surprise to the rest of the world.

Interestingly, when Finland was part of the Swedish Empire, in the 17th and early 18th centuries, hop cones were used for paying taxes, and there were even legal obligations for cultivation until 1915. Next surprise: about 100 years ago, there were commercial hop yards in Finland. Unfortunately, they have vanished over the years when the import of cheaper cones started. Since then, several trials to bring hop back to agricultural production have been made, but those attempts did not result in bigger scale cultivation.

Now the time has come. Farmers are waiting for the best hops, and there is a need to satisfy the growing industry and bring diversity to our own agricultural production. The next generation farmers living in rural and distant areas have also started a brewing business of their own!

And not only brewing industry; hops offer alternative and supplemental uses. They were the medicinal plant of the year 2007, and the benefits to people’s health are well documented in scientific literature. Anti-infective properties, anti-cancer activities, possible prevention toward Alzheimer disease are just some of them. Pharmaceutical products are already in the markets and sold for extremely high prices. Being also fibrous, it gives added value to the huge amounts of after harvest waste. Did you know that young sprouts are considered as “the most expensive vegetable” at the moment?

Hops were the medicinal plant of the year 2007, and the benefits to people’s health are well documented.

An exceptional story about Finnish hops starting from the Stone Age inspired our research team to initiate a mission called “Finnish hops to the world”. We will collect 1,000 hops from all over Finland. We will conduct a series of analysis and select ten best Finnish hops that can be utilized either for making beer or for other purposes.

And we already know that they are quite unique. They are different from the rest of the world – chemically and genetically. Altogether, they will introduce a novel, polar aroma to the beer world. Discovered here, in Finland. Stay tuned!


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