hist-brewing: Medieval Use of Hops

John Isenhour isenhour at bibiana.lis.uiuc.edu
Sun Sep 5 09:07:25 PDT 1999

Does this group have a FAQ?  As a newbie I seem to have missed
a lot of good info.

I dont have all the ref's you are looking for, and some of them
conflict.  Probably one of the best ref's on brewing is
Arnold, J.P. (1911) Origin and History of Beer and Brewing.
But for fouled up library connections I would have  copy now.
     (1) Hops apparently grow wild across much of northern Europe 
 including England.  Can anybody give a citation for that?

Roger Protz (CAMRA) "The Great British Beer Book" claims hops were
introduced generally to europe during Roman times as it was an
asparagus like food.  He says it was carried into the Caucasus and
areas of germany after the breakup of the Roman Empire by the Slavs.
Since the hops I have grow like weeds it seems logical they would

     (2) Hops were used as a mordant in dyeing cloth as early as 
 Roman times.  Can anybody give a citation for that?
     (3) The useful properties of hops for beer-making were not 
 generally recognized until the High Middle Ages.  The redoubtable 
 Hildegard von Bingen mentions their use in brewing in 12??

If you mean Abbess Hildegarde of St Ruprrechtsberg near Bingen - 1079
Hardwick "Handbook of Brewing" says that Hildegardes Physical Sacra
described beneficial use of hops in beer and at that point the use
was spreading rapidly by the time she died in 1179.

Seems likely that there is a typo as these dates are 100 years apart.
Dornbusch "Prost! the story of german beer" lists Hildgard's life
dates as 1098-1179.

     (4) That use appears to have spread across continental Europe 
 in less than a century.  Hopped beers were being brewed in the Low 
 Countries, and imported into England, in 13??

Hops or Hopped beer?  Protz claims that the Romans grew hops in
England but not for brewing and the "natives" were probably unaware of
it.  Protz claims that by the 14th century the Dutch were making
hopped beers having learned about it from Hamburg.  The German gruit
producers were trying to stave off hop use but failing and by 1400 the
Dutch who traded in Kent and Sussex had introduced both hops and
hopped beers into the Winchelsea area, claming they did not like the
sweet beers of England and the low country.

     (5) The Gruit Guild correctly perceived hops as a threat to their 
 livelihood, and fought a rear-guard action which ultimately failed.  
 Henry VI (War of the Roses) outlawed the use of hops in beer in 14??

Got me here, I know that some parts of Germany outlawed hops but 
I can't locate the refs just now.

If you happen to find out information in this area I would love
to hear about it.


217-328-0295                       Master Brewers Association of America
isenhour at uiuc.edu                   American Society of Brewing Chemists
University of Illinois/Urbana           Beer Judge Certification Program
Fermentation Science Instructor            Institute for Brewing Studies

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