She doesn’t just like him a bit. No, she loves him so much that she sacrifices huge amounts of time for him, and is even prepared to travel round the world for him. Two or three times a week, she’s out and about for him and with him, and that’s in addition to her day job. He’s not unattractive, though: slim, tall and that fragrance – you can go into raptures quite easily.
It’s the hop plant, in all its different types, variations and processing options. A funny sort of companion, you think? Not for a Hop Queen! Because since August the year-old has been the “ruler” of Hallertau, Germany’s premier hop-growing region, and in her office represents the crop and the region worldwide.
Despite all her passion and enthusiasm, however, Johanna is emphatically not a starry-eyed romantic, who idealises “her” hops or is tempted into flowery descriptions of aromas. Quite the contrary. When I ask her what she likes so much about hops, the answer is immediate: “That they grow so quickly. It’s good for business!” What’s more, Johanna thinks it’s great that hops are such an adornment to the rural scenery – and she’s certainly right there: the long poles with the hops climbing up them are a genuine contrast to the flat fields around them. Talking of contrast – diversity is something that she quite generally likes about hops as a raw material: not only all those different varieties, but also the innumerable products they can be used to make. Beer springs to mind immediately, of course, but is quickly followed by products like tea, cosmetics, natural remedies or liqueurs.
She probably gets her pragmatic, business-driven viewpoint, as well as her enthusiasm for hops, from her parental home and her childhood – Johanna comes from one of Wolnzach’s last hop-farming families, which means she’s a true child of this hop-growing stronghold.