hist-brewing: Re: [SCA-Meridian-Brewers] Medieval Use of Hops

OxladeMac at aol.com OxladeMac at aol.com
Mon Sep 6 11:18:54 PDT 1999

In a message dated 9/4/99 5:34:10 AM Central Daylight Time, PBLoomis at aol.com 

<< (1) Hops apparently grow wild across much of northern Europe 
 including England.  Can anybody give a citation for that? >>

>From H.S.Corran's "A History of Brewing", p. 42:

In 1070 there is mention of hops in Magdeburg and in the Weichbildrecht there 
is reference to property rights relating to hops growing wild in the hedges, 
indicatitng that wild hops were being used on an increasing scale, however, 
and in 1079 there are recorded statements of the Abbess Hildegarde of St 
Ruprechtsberg, near Bingen, regarding hte addition of hops to beer.

Corran's book contains all sorts of cool stuff on hops.  I highly recommend 
interlibrary loaning a copy.

>>   (2) Hops were used as a mordant in dyeing cloth as early as 
Roman times.  Can anybody give a citation for that?

Can't help you here.

>>    (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??

1079, see above.

>>    (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??

The following excerpt is from Judieth Bennett's book "Ale Beer, and Brewsters 
in England":

"Hopped beer might have been known in England as early as the late thirteenth 
century, when Richard Somer was selling Flemish ale in Norwich.  
 From the 
1370's, merchants in towns along the Eastern and Southern coasts of England - 
Lynn, Norwich, Colchester, London, and Winchelsea - began to import and sell 
beer.  About two generations later, certainly by the 1430's, beer began to be 
brewed, as well as sold, in England.  And in 1441, beer brewing was 
sufficiently well spread to require Royal supervisors for the trade."  
(Bennett, p. 79)

>>  (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??

Can't remember.  Let me know what you find out.  Corran's Chapter 3 contains 
an informative discussion on the resistance of hops, and includes several 
dates.  The following paragraph is from page 46 of Corran:

The Brewer's Company, essentially representing ale brewers, was incorporated 
in the year 1437.  It was increasingly concerned about the spread of beer 
brewing , and in 1484 requested that the no 'hops, herbs or other like thing 
be put into any ale or liquor whereof ale shall be made - but only liquor, 
malt and yeast.'  This was allowed by Lord Mayor and Alderman of London, and 
seems to have been aimed at stopping "genuine" ale brewers from putting hops 
into their brew - thereby keeping the demarcation lines clear between ale and 
beer brewers.  In 1493 the beer brewers themselves became a definite craft or 
guild, and ale and beer were to remain quite distinct for over 100 years, 
though the differences were then to disappear gradually.

Hope this helps.  Let me know what else you find out.  If you've got more 
questions, ask away - I'll do my best to answer.  Sounds like we're 
interested in documenting the same things.


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