The hops are medium-high creepers, excels in rapid vertical growth (up to 25 cm per day). It thrives in lighted warm lowlands, in mountain locations it grows exceptionally. Good water supply and optimal temperature at the beginning of summer are critical, without which hops have lower yields and quality.
The hops are rotating creepers, typical of both lighter floodplain forest areas and river banks. It is not explicitly light-loving, but it does not suit the shady bottom of the floodplain forests and is often overcome by the rapid spring growth (up to 25 cm per day) often high up into the treetops. It is typical mainly for warm, nutrient-rich lowlands; the ecological optimum of hops is found in the light
floodplain forests. However, its natural occurrence in our territory is much wider, avoiding only higher mountain locations – because of the luck of suitable habitats and because of the too cold and humid climate, where it is less resistant to pests and would often not even ripen.
In Žatec region is a greater spread of “wild” hops in the landscape, which can be dated to 7-8 thousand years ago, and it is connected with the formation of larger areas of the floodplain forest and the boundary of the so-called “hard” and “soft” meadows (the soft meadows grow directly at the river in the flooded zone and are mostly made up of willows, while the hard meadows are mostly flooded in spring and are made up of more demanding, worse rejuvenating trees such as oar and elm). The floodplain forest was formed on clay deposits deposited in the floodplains of streams and rivers. The sedimentation of clays was the result of extensive deforestation caused by early agriculture; so the man is behind the expansion of hops – albeit unintentionally – in the first phase.
Growth in dense, row-like hop gardens is actually unnatural environment for hops; mainly the early stage of hop growth in early spring is a very sensitive part, in which there is no natural microclimate in the today’s hop gardens. Recent research suggests that May temperatures and humidity are critical – young hop plants are most vulnerable at that time.
Stekník and its surroundings are in a seemingly dull but rugged and intricate landscape. In the Quaternary, the Ohře created a cascade of terraces and steams, often changing troughs, leaving behind a system of grounded meanders (historical river beds filled with sediments) cut off from river flows. The shores of two such meanders are well visible even near Stekník.
Frequent pebbles, which can be seen on the edges of the fields during the nature trail, are an interesting open-air exposition of the Poohří geology. These pebbles were often flooded from relatively distant parts of the Ore Mountains, or even the Doupov Mountains. However, hop gardens are not very successful on gravel, rocky terraces: in the Ohře floodplain the hop is planted practically only on deep fertile loamy soil/sediments.
The dominant feature of the surroundings, inherently connected with hop growing, is the Stekník Castle, located on a promontory above the Žatec valley. Originally a Baroque mansion from 1681, it was rebuilt in the Rococo style a century later, complemented by a richly decorated Chapel of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary and a splendid garden, lining the southern and southwestern slopes below the castle. The Stekník State Castle is open from April to October. In addition to the castle interiors and gardens, from 2018 onwards, you can visit the exhibition “how to pick the hops “, dedicated to the memory of witnesses to hop picking brigades in the 1960s, when the castle was used by the Agricultural Research Institute for administrative purposes and subsequently as a dormitory for hop pickers. For more information visit www.zamek-steknik.cz.
|Hop Research Institute Co., LTD|
438 01 Zatec
|+420 415 732 111|
|Stekník, 438 01 Žatec|
Beer tasting during the beer festival at the Hop Research Institute in Žatec.
-traditional event for invited experts and laics at the Hop Research Institute
-accompanying program at the beer festival