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Czech Republic’s Saaz hop region makes World Heritage list

Žatec and the Landscape of the Saaz Hops has been added to the World Heritage list by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Saaz hops, often referred to as a ‘noble’ variety, are in fact named after the Czech town of Žatec and are used extensively in Bohemia to flavour beers such as lager, and more specifically in the region, Czech pilsner.

In recent news, beers brewed with European hops have been revealed to face an uncertain future after it was revealed that European aroma hops are facing challenges that will impact on the flavour of beer in years to come, giving the news of the area becoming a World Heritage site more amplified meaning while its future is under threat.

According to the UNESCO committee, Žatec and the Landscape of Saaz Hops is a cultural landscape that includes “particularly fertile hop fields near the river Ohře” that have been “farmed for hundreds of years” and also features “historic villages and buildings used for processing hops”.

It outlined in its documentation that “urban elements of the property include the medieval centre of Žatec and its 19th to 20th century industrial extension, known as the ‘Prague Suburb’ (Pražské předměstí). Together, these illustrate the evolution of the agro-industrial processes and socio-economic system of growing, drying, certifying and trading hops from the Late Middle Ages to the present”.

Beyond the centre of Žatec the surrounding region housing hopfields around the Ohře River and near the village of Stekník includes hop-drying kilns in Trnovany, and a Rococo chateau. UNESCO has identified that Žatec and the Landscape of Saaz Hops is “a globally recognised agricultural commodity, protected by administrative acts since the time of the Enlightenment reforms carried out in the former Austrian Monarchy”.

Additionally, UNESCO has stated that “the nominated property contains well preserved specific structures, buildings, components and process installations closely associated with hop growing, processing and trading which in this unique combination of rural and urban environment are unparalleled elsewhere in the world”.

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