Let’s get to know this place! Auf gehts!
Without the Tettnang hop there is no Bingo Lager and by that measure no Bingo Beer Co. It really is true. Even if you only know Bingo for good drinks and good times, it all began with the Tettnang hop.
The goal for Bingo has always been to make the best Lager beer we could imagine in a space where anyone could feel welcome and have a blast and a half. For us, that beer was a zippy crusher made the right way. A classic and crushable beer with just a slight push of modern Euro hops. We’ve wanted to come here to Tettnang for the harvest to get a sense of the place and people for some time. We had thought the sense of pride in such a unique and geographically specific place would be huge, but we really had no idea the depth of that pride in a duty-bound sense of community that there is. More on that next time though.
Bingo Lager really is where Bingo Beer Co begins. Ken and I started conversations on this lager in 2017. I pitched a desire for a beer that was mildly citrus-y but classically German in hop character. Ken pretty damn quickly was like “Yep, this is a Tettnang and Mandarina Bavaria beer.” We brewed a bunch of pilot batches and genuinely felt we were onto something tasty early on. Ken does make tasty beers! As our love for this beer and its hops have grown, it became kinda impossible for us not to get more curious about its home.
The Tettnang region is the southernmost and smallest Noble hop growing region and by a good measure. The whole region is barely more than a 12 mile stretch in radius from the town center. And it is immediately obvious that this place is good at growing things! The region sits just up the shore from the Bodensee (Lake Constance) and has a ton of southern exposure very similar to great wine terroir. The hillsides have varied soil composition but the lower region nearing the lake is consistently sandy and great for hop root growth. Unlike in the US where hop farms are largely massive endeavors, these family-owned farms are just a few dozen acres in total with fields on specific hillsides meant for growing only a few varieties with all the care given to where the treasure of Tettnang Tettnanger hops are grown. The rows on rows of hops leap high overhead from the ground up their trellises on nearly every corner of road. Surrounding small towns and leading to the literal edge of Tettnang town center, the hops are intergrown with orchards of varied tree fruit and the occasional wine grape vine. It is a wonderfully German community where industry, agriculture, commerce, and culture all live in remarkably close confines that define a tight-knit sense of place.
Meeting the growers and walking their fields, you feel the pride of product and sense of duty that only time as generations on the same plots of land can create. Families and workers work here. While the hop growing season does not require too much labor, the harvest is a all-hands-on-deck endeavor that stretches to four weeks from late August to mid-September. The day begins early in fields and barns and lasts all night drying and storing hops from kiln to holding tank. In Tettnang, hops are inescapable, and it seems to a person none would have it any other way. Without these hands and this toil and joy, this incredibly perfect hop, Tettnang Tettnanger could not deliver the balance of spiciness, bitterness, and touch of citrus to your favorite crispy beer all over the world. These folk know it. There is a complex balance that allows this tiny region to produce a world renowned product. One that climate change is impacting as every farmer we’ve met is all too aware of.