hist-brewing: Re: Domesday Ale

Paul Robertshaw probertshaw at sciencephoto.co.uk
Mon Feb 16 01:44:19 PST 1998


Worshipful and my right trustworthy and well-beloved friends, I greet 
you well

> Please note that the Digby reference was not my only support for my claim, there
> is also Gerard's Herbal (1597) also list hops as used in ales and Beers. But if
> earlier documentation than that is needed I am glad to provide!
.....
> The earliest mention for England I have is 1524 When it was said:
> "Hops, Reformation, Bays and Beer
> all came to England in one bad year."

This rhyme is incorrect

Hopped beer had been made, according to one writer in 1302, in Flanders for 
30 or 40 years.  From there it progressed to England.  The earliest English
reference to beer comes from records of a Norwich
aleseller being prosecuted in 1289 for selling 'Flanders beer' contrary to the
Assise of Ale.  However, the drink was not imported in large quantities until
the late C14th.  The first London record of the drink appears in 1372 as four
barrels of 'beere' in the possession of one Henry Vandale (note the 
Dutch name).  English production, rather than consumption, of beer 
comes a bit later. 

The rhyme may be correct about hops coming to England though - in the 
sense of cultivation.  
Although the plant is native to these shores it is difficult to 
cultivate commercially, and most of the hops used in late medieval 
beer were imported.  Sometime in the early 16thC Flemish workers came 
over and began commercial hop growing in Kent. Their production still 
did not keep up with demand - Harrison in 1577 has to specify that 
he's using *English* hops [my italics]- note that he doesn't feel the 
need to say "English malt".  In 1603 there were regulations governing 
the quality of imported hops. 

> Following the Hundred Years war hops were sporadically used by by brits, enough
> so that There came to be a law against the use of hops in England, (this was
> primarily so that the church could keep it's control on brewing, but that is a
> whole different kettle of fish.)

Mmmm.  Would take issue with you on that one. Most brewing was done 
by alewives, not the church.  Apart from one or two references in 
particular areas to 
alewives being banned from brewing during the church "ales" 
(fund-raising events) I don't know of any general English church 
monopoly.

The Trinity have you in His keeping 

Paul Robertshaw

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