Hops of Galicia, Beer of Lopatyn

The post that follows in effect is the second part of my previous post, “Pictures From a Brewery”.

Hops in the Austrian Empire

Hop-growing in the former Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia was an established but relatively small-scale business up to World War I. Prior to 1850 one source, Penny Cyclopedia (1838), states “a few hops” were grown, so a cottage industry at best.

By 1879 hop-growing is on a more solid footing. The Journal of the Society of Arts was particularly approving of quality, stating at their best Galician hops could hardly be distinguished from classic Bohemian Saaz.

The bulk of the culture was in the eastern section of the purple area shown, comprising the Lvov, Tarnopol, and Stanislawow districts, viz. Eastern Galicia.

 

(Image attribution: Kai Kotzian, year of creation: 2005. Source: Wikipedia Commons at this link).

To the north is Volhynia, then in the Russian Empire, also known for hops historically as I discussed earlier. Although Galician hop quality could be good as noted, as in other parts of Austro-Hungary, occasionally the crop failed or was seriously reduced.

In 1897 production for Galicia was about 1,000,000 lbs. Bohemia, long the star for production and topmost quality, outpaced it more than tenfold. See in Hops: in their Botanical, Agricultural, and Technical Aspect and as an Article of Commerce by Emanuel Gross (1900), whence this table is taken:

 

 

In 1911 the American Daily and Consular Trade Reports reported hop output of Galicia about on par with ten years earlier, although swings in annual production could be quite variable, reflecting weather and hop culture factors.

Hops and Galicia After World War I

In 1921, hence just after World War I, the Journal of the Institute of Brewing reported the hop fields of Galicia were “completely devastated” due to the war. I am not clear if there was revival in the interwar years, perhaps there was on a small scale.

In recent years hop culture exists in numerous parts of Ukraine, of limited scale. Eastern Galicia though, which is part of modern Ukraine, appears to raise no or little hops. It is not listed (that I could see) in the 2018 study Beer and Hop Branches of Ukraine: Conjuncture and Integration by T. Pryimachuk, A. Protsenko, R. Rudyk, and T. Shtanko.

While around 1900 Galicia did about as well in hop culture as Styria including for yield, Styria became a recognized hop production area especially for the Styrian Fuggle variety. At least on paper similar promise attended early hop culture in Galicia, but the end result differed.

Terroir

The novelist Asher Barash memorialized small-scale Galician brewing in his book Pictures From a Brewery (1929 in Hebrew, 1971 in English). I have little doubt the beer he describes had the stamp of terroir. That beer was made in “L.”, signifying likely Lopatyn, the village in Eastern Galicia where Barash grew up.

The beer of L. as the book describes resulted from barley sourced from local agriculture, malted onsite at the brewery. Hops too were sourced from local growers. No matter the attempted replication of the Bohemian gold standard, Eastern Galician hops had to demonstrate local qualities, terroir if you will.

This is the pattern of hop growing world-wide except to a degree where intensive cultivation including irrigation can produce a relatively consistent product, as in Washington State in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

Lopatyn’s Beer

Barash also wrote that the beer of L. was commended for its quality by visitors from the “Halperin” brewery in Brody, the chief town of the district: see on map above, Lopatyn is a few miles distant.

We know that Halperin’s brewery existed, the modern Polish historian Gregory Gembala mentions it as a leased undertaking in his paper The Role of Jews in the Polish Beer Industry. He describes it this way:

  • Brody Stare (Aleksander Heilpern)

Gembala does not mention Lopatyn, but other sources state brewing took place there ahead of World War I and apparently into the 1930s. A 1907-1913 Galician business directory shows the names of Lopatyn residents engaged in brewing, the spirits trade, and propination, or rights granted by a noble landowner to brew, distill or sell alcohol.

See in top-left (the name Lopatyn appears on the previous page where the entry starts):

 

 

The names, e.g. Leon Friedmann for brewing, do not correspond to those in Barash’s novel. The brewery of L. was managed by his heroine Hanna Aberdam, who signed the brewery lease according to the book. No similar name appears in the directory for Lopatyn at least for 1907-1913.

It is possible by this period she was no longer involved in brewing, but I doubt in any case he would have used her real name.

Note however the hop trade is mentioned, via the name Distenfeld. This was one of the founding families of Jewish Lopatyn. The patriarch came from Volhynia, as described in a history of Lopatyn Jewry included in the memorial website Jewish Generations.

The account includes a hand-drawn map of the town. The key shows the location of the brewery and distillery (item 11). The oblong shown was perhaps the pond, or “lake” in the book, along which both lay. I included in my previous post an image of what may be that water today, where a distillery still operates.

For those interested, which I hope are all reading, the Jewish Generations page sets out in graphic, sadly disturbing detail what became of Lopatyn’s Jews after the start of World War II.

I think it likely Asher Barash plumbed both his creative process and diverse sources for his story, not excluding the Lopatyn brewery; how could it be otherwise? That he drew the general lines of small-scale, manorial brewing in Austrian Galicia I have no doubt.

For their part, the beer of Lopatyn, and the beer of Brody, had to have a regional stamp. They are a taste forever lost, as are the Jewish communities that produced them, in those places, at that time.

Note re images: source of each image is linked in text. Images are used for historical and research purposes. All intellectual property in the source belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Hops of Galicia, Beer of Lopatyn”

  1. This was interesting. Thank you!

    I guess one reason why Ukraine does not have much hop growing today might be that the Soviets centralized hop growing in the Soviet Union, and picked Chuvashia as their hop growing region. So probably they just dropped whatever hop growing was already there.

    Reply

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