Found on nearly every street, hanging from old red roofs, signs advertising “Spalter Bier” have been solid in the town’s appearance for years. In Spalt, Germany, the product of Spalter beer has been sold and cherished for generations. Nestled in its green hills, the native hop plant is the key to this cultural entity. Enthusiasts and locals rave about its “delicate, spicy aroma,” and its light harmony between sweet and bitter notes. The plant has been central in sustaining the town and rooted in its culture for centuries, but that might change very soon. Warm, drying climate has dealt the plants an unfair hand, as things get warmer, more plants dry up.

The previous harvesting season [2022] gave scorching temperatures, and delivered droughts and storms, in turn declining the crops harvest rates more than since World War II. Usually, growers experience one dry year and bad harvest throughout a whole decade, not two extremely poor years in a row. Going into this harvesting season, experts at the Association of German Hops Growers have already predicted that the season will be below average. The native breed of Spalter naturally grows and thrives in cold, wet climates, these are the set of crops that have recently suffered the most.

Now questions have risen across farmers, what the longevity of the native plant is estimated to be, whether or not they should start shifting over to a more climate-friendly variety of the hop plant, and whether brewers will buy this new product. These abnormal yet natural factors have caused the plant to be harder and more expensive to cultivate. This makes farmers more reliant on irrigating the crops, but the hills are naturally scarce of water, so this decreases positive productivity.

The fields, owned by farmer Mr. Auernhammer, have experienced a 20% decrease in harvest. Mr. Auernhammer installed black irrigation pipes floating above his crops; this had helped keep his fields lush, despite the harvest rate decreasing. In comparison, fields across town that have not been put under irrigation systems are thinner, producing fewer vines with fewer leaves. The issue of collecting and retaining groundwater for irrigation is also a difficult task; in turn the Bavarian government has pledged $40 million to build the needed infrastructure. Farmers, politicians, and water managers are also trying to get access to a nearby reservoir, the Brombachsee. The excess rainwater is important in maintaining the current hop crops. Last year’s harvest season [2022], farmers incorporated new plant varieties into the fields and they showed greater resilience to heat, springing back after week-long droughts ending in rain. Moving forward, the process of harvesting and selling Spalt crops and products is going to be a tumultuous one, but locals, farmers, and experts are cultivating new ways in saving the town’s tradition.