hist-brewing: Medieval use of hops

Donald Beistle dbeistle at arches.uga.edu
Mon Dec 6 11:46:23 PST 1999

There's a fair amount of evidence that the Anglo-Saxons used hops in their
brews. Interested parties should take a look at Ann Hagen's 2nd book for
the details on this matter. Briefly, the situation seems to have been
this: The Anglo-Saxons appear to have been hop users, and not
coincidentally the earliest wealthy and (relatively) stable English
kingdom was that of the Cantwara, in Kent in the 6th century. The Cantwara
were not only great traders with the continent, but also were the earliest
English (not British!) converts to Christianity. Eventually it was English
missionaries who were at least as responsible as Charlemagne for
converting the continental Germans. In any case, it is altogether likely
that English monks brought their taste for hopped beers with them when
they founded their monasteries throughout greater Germany in the latter
centuries of the first millennium.

Hopped beers seem to have fallen out of favor in England following the
Norman Conquest, only to reappear some centuries later with the rise of
the Flemish textile trade. Perhaps not coincidentally, the ports of the
Low Countries had been been trading back and forth with the ports of
southeastern Britain since at least Roman times. So both the Flemish and
the south German taste for hopped beer may be attributable to the "Dark
Ages" brewing habits of the English.

It's food for thought...


Donald Beistle
Athens, Georgia

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