Heinrich Joh. Barth, for many years a managing partner of Joh. Barth & Sohn, died on December 10, 2019 at the age of 93.
Speaking on behalf of the family, his sons Alexander and Stephan Barth paid tribute to Heinrich Joh. Barth and his accomplishments: “The family mourns the loss of their father and grandfather, Heinrich Joh. Barth, a kind, resourceful and optimistic man with whom we shared so many wonderful experiences over the decades. The entire BarthHaas group grieves for him as an entrepreneur without whom the first global enterprise in the hop industry would not have been created”.
Heinrich Joh. Barth was born as the son of the hop merchant Heinrich Th. Barth and his wife, Franziska, in Merano, northern Italy on 7 October 1926. He grew up in Nuremberg where the family company has been based since the 19th century. Heinrich Joh. Barth always spent the summer holidays at the “Barthhof”, the family’s own hop farm in the Hallertau, and would help during harvest in the extensive hop gardens there. This not only gave him insights into hop farming, but also enabled him to get to know the people – the hop growers, the hop pickers and the hop traders – involved in the industry.
Heinrich Joh. Barth was to remain a practical man, for when he returned as a soldier from the Second World War at the age of 18, he was unable to go back to and finish school. As the only available member of the sixth generation, the task was left up to him to rebuild the family company out of the ruins left by the bombs. He learned the ins and outs of the hop trade from the ground up and self-honed his ability to read balance sheets and understand accounting. He also deepened his language skills on his extensive travels around the world in the 1950s, as it was customary for the newly installed partner to visit all his customers in person.
His unbridled passion for learning was a feature that distinguished Heinrich Joh. Barth well until his old age. After retiring from active management, he not only maintained a keen interest in the further development of the company, but also devoted himself to the arts. For in his heart, he was not only a hop merchant, but also a historian, archivist, author and man of literature. In addition in 1960, Heinrich Joh. Barth became one of the co-founders of Nuremberg’s “Golfclub am Reichswald” of which he was club president for 17 years. Golf was his second great passion after his interest in the company.
During his time at Joh. Barth & Sohn, the German hop industry underwent significant structural changes, which he influenced lastingly:
• In 1957 Joh. Barth & Sohn was the first to introduce multi-year hop contracts with growers in Germany, a system already in use in the USA. In this way, the wild price swings that were a familiar and dreaded component of the open German market were limited to a certain extent for growers, traders and brewers. This resulted in increased planning security for all market participants.
• Up until the mid-1950s, there was practically only one hop variety grown in Germany, “Hallertau Mittelfrüh”. In 1959 “Northern Brewer” hops were planted for the first time in the hop gardens of “Barthhof”, the family farm. This marked the beginning of a wonderful diversity of hop varieties in Germany. Today, brewers have a choice of nearly 300 hop varieties from all over the world.
• In the 1960s and 70s, under the leadership of Heinrich Joh. Barth and along with his fellow managing partners Peter and Michael Barth and Harald Goering, modern hop processing plants were built in cooperation with partners in Germany, France, the UK and the USA.
For an internationally orientated entrepreneur like Heinrich Joh. Barth, the re-establishment of the company’s global presence after the Second World War was a key goal. In 1961, John Barth, Inc. was founded in the USA. Then in 1977, when the opportunity presented itself to buy the company’s greatest competitor, John I. Haas, Inc. based in Yakima, Washington, Heinrich Joh. Barth did not hesitate for long. He and his family moved to the USA, only returning to Germany in 2003. Heinrich Joh. Barth died in his home city of Nuremberg on December 10, 2019.