In the Industry: German Hops with Carlos Ruiz
Photo Credit to Daniel Zimmermann
Overseeing numerous international accounts, from the various hop farms of Germany to your local brewery, is no small feat. Luckily, Carlos Ruiz of HVG (Hop Processing Cooperative) is up to the task. Carlos is the International Sales Manager over at HVG, a partner and friend to hop growers in Germany. Carlos took the time to chat with BSG about what he does over at HVG, his favorite parts of his job, what HVG does, and even a couple exciting upcoming German hops.
- How would you explain your role at HVG?
In the last 24 years that I have been part of HVG, I've had the great pleasure of contributing in many ways to help the company become the first choice regarding German hops for brewers world-wide. Today, my range of action is a little bit like that James Bond movie: "The world is not enough.” I overview many of our international key accounts in combination also with the responsibility for different regions outside Germany. My colleague Lisa Schwarzhuber is the actual brain behind all the information management. Apart from sales, you will find me interacting with my colleagues Florian Schüll, Johann Bertazzoni and Dr. Adrian Forster in the never-ending field of technical topics.
- For someone who doesn’t know, how would you explain HVG?
We were founded 1953 to bring hop growers and brewers together. As a cooperative, we are, so to say, the direct marketing arm of the majority of the German Hop producers. When you source your hops from HVG, you are dealing directly with the farmers. With our direct contacts to brewers, and with the support of some great distributors worldwide like BSG, we are capable of reaching most of the 20,000+ brewers out there.
- What makes you most proud about working at HVG?
I started my brewing apprenticeship when I was 17 in Venezuela, and by then German Hops already had that aura of being the soul of the beer, and THE ingredient you wanted to have in your kettle. From a brewer's point of view, to be able to help bring it to the most remote corners of the world gives me a great satisfaction. But on a personal level, what really makes me proud is to contribute to the well-being of these over 1,000 families that work so unbelievable hard to bring their production to our customers. Many brewers are simply not aware how incredibly difficult it is grow the highest possible quality ingredient, and I love the task of conveying to them this information.
- What are the main differences in hops grown in different regions in Germany?
Apart from the varieties Tettnanger and Spalter that are only cultivated in Tettnang and Spalt respectively, we grow most of our 30 + varieties in all our 4 regions, under the same strict quality and traceability rules. The Hallertau, Tettnang, and Elbe Saale hops have received, due to their heritage, the EU Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) recognition. Spalt Hops have received the seal of EU Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). Every region has its own special traits, and we'll be telling more of their story in the weeks to come. The "Made in Germany" quality grant is a signature to all of them.
- How are German hops different from other hops around the world?
Like beer has its roots in Germany, it is here where hops went from being a wild herb growing at river creeks to an agricultural product of world importance. The first written testimony of this magical pairing started in monasteries, dating back to the 9th century in Freising. Over 1.000 years of experience have allowed for an empiric selection of those varieties with the best brewing properties, those that we call the "noble hops". And the Reinheitsgebot of 1516 catapulted it to be the sole spice for beer, which until then was brewed with several types of spices called "Grut". The network of expertise and know-how here in Germany is unparalleled, even more considering that it is such a small agricultural product with barely 22,000 ha of cultivation. But, what I think is really distinctive here, is that hops are a member of the family, that are raised with love and sweat, and not merely a plant produced for solely a financial reason. It's part of the landscape, the culture, and the traditions.
- What is the most rewarding part of your job?
My friends would say that it is to drink free beer everywhere. While that certainly is not a disadvantage, I would rather say that it is to get to know so many people of so many different countries and cultures, and the awareness that beyond all borders, we are all united by the passion and love for beer.
- What are some upcoming hops to get excited for?
Diamant and Aurum are the next hops to be looking out for. After more than 15 years without the registration of a new variety with noble characteristics, these ladies with Tettnanger and Spalter blood in their veins are formidable for brewing those special Lagers and Pilsners that are soaring right now. They’re even for dry hopping with their high and fine oil content. They are a real enrichment to our portfolio.
- Most interesting use of a German hop?
Apart from brewing, where we have everything in the variety spectrum to offe, from the Tropical Lager to Juicy IPA, I would say in Cancer Research. The Prenylflavonoids of Hops like Xanthohumol seem to have outstanding properties still to be further researched. Our Taurus is the Hop Variety with the highest Xanthohumol content.
- Any life lessons from hops, farming, sales, or brewing that you’d like to share?
The Founding Fathers laid it already down in the constitution, that all men are created equal with certain unalienable Rights, among which are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Hoppiness. (copied from my friend Amanda Reitenbach, Science of Beer, Brazil.)