Hop cultivation is one of the main activities in the Lower Savinja Valley, a valley characterized by the vast hop fields. As much as three quarters of the Slovene hop fields are found in the region. A small part of produce is used for medicines, and the large rest is used for beer brewing. Hop is a substance that gives beer that pleasantly bitter aroma.
The hop is an industrial perennial plant originating in Asia. It is part of the family Cannabaceae, which also includes the genus cannabis. Only female plants are cultivated in the gardens. The cones are picked in summer from the late August to September.
The hop was known to the ancient Romans who were trading the young sprouts in their markets. For Arab doctors the hop was a medical plant, whereas in Europe it was used in the beer brewing process already in the 8th century. Because of many imitations, a law was passed in the 12th century in Germany regulating that every beer must contain hop, malt, yeast and water. Even now, the hop can be used for many purposes: in aromatic pillows for a better sleep, the stems can be used for weaving baskets and other wicker products, and also in paper and textile industry.
Early hop cultivation, tradition and customs
The modern hop cultivation in the Savinjska Valley began in 1876, and in 1886 the first experiments with a sort from England were carried out. The results were good and the sort remained in the region ever since, known as the “Savinja golding”.
The hop and its cultivation remained symbols of the Lower Savinja Valley up to this day. Its importance for the region is reflected in many preserved customs and festivals. These include also the selection of the hop senior and the hop princess who represent Slovene hop growers. The senior symbolizes the hop plant, and the princess a hop cone.