Saudi Arabia: Saaz Hop Region Added to List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The Saaz hop region in the Czech Republic has been granted UNESCO World Heritage status. According to the Ministry of Culture in Prague, the cultivation and utilization of hops have played a significant role in shaping the city of Zatec, also known as Saaz in German, and its surrounding areas over many centuries. This decision was reached during the ongoing world heritage conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The application for World Heritage status encompassed two distinct components. On one side, it covered the picturesque landscape surrounding the villages of Trnovany and Steknik, along with Steknik Castle. On the other side, it encompassed the historic city center of Zatec, complete with its industrial structures dating back to the 19th century.

Zatec, with a population of approximately 19,000 residents, is situated along the banks of the Eger River, nearly 70 kilometers northwest of Prague and 50 kilometers east of Karlovy Vary. Historically, it was predominantly inhabited by German Bohemians until they were displaced after the Second World War.

UNESCO describes this cultural landscape as having been profoundly influenced over the centuries by the ongoing tradition of cultivating and trading the world's most renowned hop variety, which is widely used in global beer production. The property comprises exceptionally fertile hop fields located near the Eger River (also called Ohře), which have been continuously farmed for centuries, along with historic villages and structures that have been used for hop processing. In the urban context, the property encompasses the medieval core of Žatec and its industrial expansion from the 19th to the 20th century, known as the "Prague Suburb" (Pražské předměstí). Collectively, these elements vividly showcase the development of agro-industrial processes and the socio-economic system involved in growing, drying, certifying, and trading hops from the Late Middle Ages to the present day, as stated by UNESCO on its website.

This recognition makes Žatec/Saaz the first hop-growing region worldwide to attain this status.

Officially registered back in 1952, the original Saaz Hops, also known as Czech Saaz, has firmly established itself as a fundamental hop variety for brewers and boasts a history dating back over seven centuries. This esteemed red-bine variety originated in Zatec/Saaz, Bohemia, which is now part of the Czech Republic, and it has since become a globally cultivated hop.

Saaz stands as one of the four original Noble hops (the others being Hallertau, Spalt, and Tettnang) recognized for its distinctive and timeless aroma. These hops find their primary use in crafting the classic Czech Pilsner, and they are also renowned for their prominent role in famous beers like Stella Artois, as well as numerous Bohemian Lagers and Pilsners worldwide. The warm and herbal character of Saaz hops is attributed to their high farnesene content, while their other oils maintain a balanced profile.

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