Ale vs. Beer (was Re: hist-brewing: looking for sources)

Nick Sasso Njs at
Wed Jan 6 06:54:59 PST 1999

Actually, according to a reference in a book called something like "The Historical Campanion to Housebrewing", the distinction between "ale" and "beer" was made when hops was introduced into England as a bittering agent to rival gruits.  ALE referred to barley beverage bittered with herbs (gruit) and BEER was used to reference hops bittering.  There was great controversy, evidently, over the use of hops to bitter the brew.  I intuit the hoopla as a social as well as economic resistance of hops.  Hops was continentally spreading, and posed a challenge to the English brewing establishment.

The above reference would add some clarity to the Bennett reference in the earlier post (below) to selling and importing beer in England.  

The question I have, though, is "What quantity is a 'good espen'?"

Nick Sasso
Knaves of Grain

< In the 18th century, "ale" in English was reserved for strong brews and 
< "beer" for the weaker, at least in some areas.

For a late 16th / early 17th century reference, Markham describes
"Strong", "Ordinary" and "Small" beer, but also "Strong Ale" and
"Bottle Ale".  He writes that "as for hops, although some use not to
put in any, yet the best brewers thereof will allow to fourteen
gallons of ale a good espen full of hops, and no more".  So he is
suggesting adding a _small_ amount of hops to 'ale'.

According to Bennett, "beer (brewed with malt, water, yeast, and
_hops_)" was first sold in Lullington in the 1480s, and "by the 1520s
it was regularly brewed on site."

Later in that same chapter:

  By the late fourteenth century, however, circumstances began to
  favor the introduction of beer and the new brewing technologies it
  encouraged.  From the 1370s, merchants in towns along the eastern
  and southern coasts of England -- Lynn, Norwich, Colchester, London,
  Winchelsea, and other ports -- began to import and sell beer.{12}
  About two generations later, certainly by the 1430s, beer began to
  be brewed, as well as sold, in England.{13}  And in 1441,
  beerbrewing was sufficiently widespread to require royal supervisors
  of the trade.{14}  Three factors (each with its own implications in
  terms of women's access to this new technology) especially
  encouraged English adoption of beer in the late fourteenth and early
  fifteenth centuries; trans-channel trade and migration, expanding
  commercial opportunities, and military requirements.
  [Bennett, p. 79]

It seems that beer was brewed in England somewhat earlier than
commonly thought, though Bennett points out that in the 15th C. it was
mostly brewed by foreigners for foreigners -- the locals still
preferring sweet ale to more bitter beer.


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