As I understand the famous Saaz hop is grown in a region called Žatec in modern day Czech Republic. Why is this hop not called the Žatec hop? And why exactly is a Czech hop known by a German name? Is this a case of cultural appropriation?
Why does the Saaz hop have a German name?
Along time back, the town of Žatec was part of Germany and not part of the now Czech Republic. Thus the name reflects an historical perspective rather than a cultural one.
Officially registered in 1952, the original Saaz, or Czech Saaz as it is sometimes known, has established itself as a staple variety for brewers and dates back more than 700 years. Originating in Zatec, Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) it is an esteemed red-bine variety that is now grown around the world. New Zealand in particular has embraced Saaz, breeding several descendants including the popular Motueka and Riwaka varieties (B & D Saaz, respectively).
Saaz is one of the four original Noble hops and has a distinctive and classic aroma. Known for its prominent use in Stella Artois and countless Bohemian Lagers and Pilsners. Its warm, herbal character stems from a high level of farnesene while its other oils are in fair balance.
With such a low alpha acid percentage, Saaz is inarguably an aroma hop, however, when used as an early addition it is thought to add a delicate bitterness. Additionally, its elevated content of polyphenols aids in abating oxidation, giving beer brewed with Saaz a notably longer shelf life.
Growing Saaz is not without its difficulties. Specifically, it endures a meager yield, has weak mildew resistance and light cones. The original Saaz variety has been successfully cloned 9 times between 1952 and 1993 in an effort to improve these factors. Originally, growers were hesitant to hybridize, fearing the loss of its signature and delicate aroma. This hybridization has become necessary though to breed resistance to wilt and mildew and make it a more viable crop. Despite these few shortcomings, breweries use it prolifically worldwide. - Saaz
Žatec and the Saaz noble hop have an interesting intermingled history.
Žatec (German: Saaz) is a town in Louny District, Ústí nad Labem Region, in the Czech Republic. It has about 19,000 inhabitants.
It is famous for an over-700-year-long tradition of growing Saaz noble hops used by several breweries. Žatec produces its own beer and hosts 'Dočesná', its hops-related harvest festival every year on the town square.
The earliest historical reference to the Bohemian fortress of Sacz is in the Latin chronicle of Thietmar of Merseburg of 1004, when King Henry II of Germany reconquered it from the Polish duke Bolesław I Chrobry. During the 11th century it belonged to the Vršovci – a powerful Czech aristocratic family. It received the privileges of a royal town under King Ottokar II of Bohemia in 1265. A coat-of-arms was given to the citizens by King Vladislaus II for their courage during the storming of Milan.
From the outbreak of the Hussite Wars in 1419 to the Thirty Years' War, the town was Hussite or Protestant, but after the Battle of White Mountain (1620) the greater part of the Czech inhabitants left the town, which remained German and Roman Catholic until 1945, when the German speaking inhabitants were forced to leave their home and expelled to Germany. On June 3, 1945 about 5,000 German inhabitants were gathered on the Market place and marched to Postoloprty, where at least 763 were murdered in the Postoloprty massacre, estimates range up to 2,000 victims killed by Czechoslovak military in Žatec and on the March.
During and after the World War II a Messerschmitt production facility and air base for testing aircraft, including new jet fighters, was located close to the town. In 1948 the production facility continued to produce the Avia S-199, a version of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 aircraft which were sold to Israel, with the initial training for the Israeli pilots provided at the air base. Many other military supplies were flown to Israel from the air base, which helped the new state to secure its independence.