Hops Arrive in England: 1526?

According to The Timetables of History (almost as good as the Guinness Book for leafing through), hops were introduced to England from Artois in 1526.  There’s a story there – !

Beeton’s Date-book: An English Chronology from the Earliest Periods to the Current Period (1896) (boy was I surprised to find that in Amazon) has this entry on 1526:  “Hops first brought into England, according to the old distich:  – ‘Turkeys, carps, piccarel, hops, and beer/Brought into England all in one year.’  But there is great doubt on the subject.”

It would be very disappointing if Timetables used Beeton as their source on this, so I poked around a bit more.  I happen to be working up a series of articles on how volumes were measured through time (tracking the brewing trade, casks and kegs, you see), as well as researching all the words we used to have for various casks and kegs, all of which were thoroughly regulated and usually taxed in one way or another.  In this context, the topic of beer brewers from the Netherlands migrating into England and starting up beer brewing had emerged.  Their beer was in opposition to the local English ale.  Let us assume that the difference between beer and ale is, as popularly assumed, that beer is hopped and ale in those days was not.  Here’s a bit from my draft:

In the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, one attempt to standardize measures specifically for brewing occurred in England.   England was in the midst of the Hundred Years War, and the Duke of Burgundy had just switched sides to support the French; the Duke’s territories included Flanders, Holland, and Zeeland, home to many of these immigrant beer brewers.  English brewers produced ale, but imports of hopped beer order xanax usa from the Low Countries began to increase markedly, and Dutch and German immigrants began producing beer for the growing immigrant population.  Records indicate that ale brewers were everywhere at the time, but beer brewers at the time appear to have been concentrated around a few coastal cities.   They were often the targets of xenophobic rumors that “beere” was harmful and unhealthy.  Henry VI himself wrote to the sheriffs of London when rumors that “biere” was “poisonous and not fit to drink” were gaining traction: “Such attacks had already caused many brewers to cease brewing, and would cause great mischief unless stopped.”

The Hundred Years War was waged from 1337 to 1453.  Henry VI’s English reign was 1422-61 and 1470-71 (he was disputed King of France 1422-53, hence the war).  That would indicate that hops were in England, whether well accepted or no, well before 1526.  But that’s still only one source’s word against another.

Well, no. According to Charles Bamforth‘s (1998)  Beer: tap into the art and science of brewing,  In 1471, Norwich, England, banned use of hopst in the brewing of ale in 1471.  Hops were first grown in southern England in 1524.   Richard Unger writes in his Beer in the Middle Ages and Renaissance  that hopped beer was first imported to Britain from Holland around 1400, but hops were condemned in 1519 as a “wicked and pernicious weed”.  So, Beeton was right to be suspicious, and the fabulously browsable Timetables got this one wrong.

If you’re interested, the first documented instance of hop cultivation is in 736 in the Hallertau region of modern Germany.  The first mention of using hops in brewing in Germany is 1079.   There will be a pub quiz later; the winner gets to draw another pint.


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