My object, in this article, is not to give a history of beer, because for that purpose it would be necessary to define accurately the different kinds of grain mentioned in the writings of the Greeks and the Romans; and this would be a tedious, as well as difficult, and to me a very unpleasant labour; as I should be obliged to controvert a great many received opinions. I shall only endeavour to answer the question, Where and at what time did hops begin to be used as an addition to beer? This subject has already engaged the attention of two learned men 917 , whose researches I shall employ and enlarge by my own observations.

Hops at present are so well known, that a formal description of them would be superfluous. I think it necessary, however, for the sake of perspicuity, to state what follows. This plant at present grows wild in the greater part of Europe, and in Germany is common in the hedges and fences. It clings to the trunks of trees, and often climbs round poles, if long enough, to the height of twenty or thirty feet. It is almost everywhere rough and sharp to the touch, and sometimes clammy. The leaves are generally divided into three, and often into five indented lobes; but the upper ones are shaped like a heart and undivided. The male plants bear flowers, like those of the currant-bush or of the male hemp; the female plants produce their flowers in cones, which are not unlike those of the fir, except that the latter are woody, while the former are foliaceous. These cones only are used for beer; on that account the female plants alone are cultivated, and from these they are picked and dried as soon as they begin to become pulverulent. They are transplanted or propagated by means of seedlings, in hop-grounds properly prepared, where the cones become larger and better than those of the wild plants, which however are not entirely useless. They are added to beer to render it more palatable, by giving it an agreeable bitter taste; and, at the same time, to make it keep longer; and it must indeed be confessed, that of the numerous and various additions which since the earliest periods have been tried, none has better answered the purpose, or been more generally employed.

Among the botanists of the last two centuries, who perused the writings of the Greeks and the Romans, and endeavoured to discover those plants which they meant to describe, many imagined that they found in them hops. But when one takes the trouble to examine without prejudice their opinions, nothing appears but a very slight probability; and some even of these learned botanists, such as Matthioli and others, have acknowledged that it cannot be proved that the Greeks and the Romans were acquainted with our hops.

The plant which perhaps has been chiefly considered as the hop is the Smilax aspera 918  of Dioscorides 919 , the same no doubt as that described by Theophrastus under the name of smilax, without any epithet 920. That the description agrees for the most part with our hops cannot be denied; but it is equally true that it might be applied, with no less propriety, to many other creeping plants, and certainly with the greatest probability to that which in the Linnæan system has retained the name Smilax aspera. What the Grecian writer says of the fruit is particularly applicable to this plant; but, on the other hand, it differs from the fruit of the hop.

One might with more probability conjecture that hops occur in Pliny 921 , under the name Lupus salictarius. But the whole of what he says of this plant is, that it was esculent, and grew in the willow plantations. This is undoubtedly true of hops, for that the young shoots are eaten in spring as salad is well known; but the name lupus alone has induced the commentator to apply all this, though equally applicable to other plants, to our hop, which at present is called lupulus. Much more unfounded is the conjecture, that the hop is that wild plant which, according to the account of Cato, was used as fodder for cattle 922. But the word in manuscripts is differently written, and consequently uncertain; besides, there are many plants which might be employed in the place of straw.

It is certainly possible that hops might have been in use among the northern nations, at the time of these writers, without their having any knowledge of them; for the Romans were acquainted with beer only from the accounts given of the Germans and their manners 923 , and they considered that beverage merely as an unsuccessful imitation of their wine. But I agree in opinion with Conring, Meibomius, and others, that hops were not used till a much later period. The names humulus  and lupulus  also are of no great antiquity. The former is the oldest, and seems to belong to the people who first added this improvement to beer. The humble  and humle  of the Swedes and Danes, the chumel  of the Bohemians, the houblon  of the French and the Spanish, Hungarian and Persian appellations, all seem to be derived from the same origin, as well as the Latin names of later times, humelo,humolohumulohumlo 924 Lupulus  does not occur till a much later period. The German word, which the English also have adopted, appears first to have been written hoppe, from which was formed afterwards in High German Hopfen, by converting, as it commonly does, the double p  into the harder pf. Thus from toppe  it has made topf, and from koppekopf, &c. As far as I know, this word is found, for the first time, in a dictionary which seems to be of the tenth century 925 , and which has TimalusHoppe  and Brandigabo Feldhoppe. According to my conjecture,timalus  has been erroneously printed for humulus ; but in regard to brandigabo  I can give no explanation. It is derived perhaps from brace  or bracium. The former was known to Pliny 926 ; and the latter occurs in the same dictionary along with the translation, malt.

No mention is made of hops either in Walafrid Strabo, who died in 849, or in Æmilius Macer, who cannot have lived earlier than the year 850; in the laws of the old Franks, in which beer and malt are often mentioned, or in the Capitulare de Villis Imperatoris, which are ascribed to Charles the Great. Had beer been then used and brewed in Germany, it would certainly have been at any rate mentioned by the emperor. Haller says 927  it is related by Isidorus that the experiment of adding hops to beer was first made in Italy. Were this the case, it would be the oldest mention of that circumstance, for Isidorus died in the year 636. It is however not only highly improbable that the use of hops should be discovered in Italy, which is a wine country, but it can be proved to be false. Not the smallest notice of it is to be found in the whole work of Isidorus; and in the Bibliotheca Botanica, when Haller had the book before him and extracted from it many things remarkable, he does not repeat this assertion 928. The passage which has given rise perhaps to this error, appears to be that where the author describes a kind of beer called by him celia, and where the germination of corn, the shooting of malt, and the sweet wort made from it, together with its fermentation, are clearly mentioned, but not hops 929. Some one perhaps thought that hops also ought to be supposed in this passage, else beer would not acquire that strong taste and intoxicating quality spoken of by Isidorus, who very properly ascribes both to fermentation. The same account has been repeated by Vincentius 930 , without any change or addition. But as Isidorus scarcely contains anything which is not borrowed from earlier writers, I endeavoured to discover the source of that information, and at length found it in the history of Orosius 931 , who, as is well known, lived in the fifth century.

In the Latin translation of the works of the Arabian physician Mesue 932  is a description, but as is commonly the case, a defective one, of a creeping plant, with rough indented leaves under the name of lupulus, which indeed corresponds exceedingly well with our hops. The cones in particular are exactly described. The author, however, speaks there only of the medicinal qualities of the plant, and makes no mention of its application to beer. Mesue lived about the year 845, consequently is the first who uses the term lupuli. But we have only a wretched old translation of the writings of this physician; it is probable that the word lupulus  comes only from the translator. This passage therefore can prove nothing.

It is however certain that hops were known in the time of the Carolingian dynasty, for a letter of donation by King Pepin speaks of humolariæ, which without doubt must have been hop-gardens 933. In like manner Adelard, abbot of Corbey, in the year 822, freed the millers belonging to his district from all labour relating to hops, and on this occasion employed the words humlo  and brace, by which is to be understood corn and malt used for beer. In the Frisingen collection of ancient documents, there are many which were written in the time of Ludovicus Germanicus, consequently in the middle of the ninth century; and in some of these, hop-gardens, which were then called humularia, are mentioned 934. In the tax registers of the two following centuries, among the articles delivered to churches and monasteries, modii  and moldera humuli  are very often named 935. Hop-fields and the delivery of hops occur much oftener in the thirteenth century, under the appellations humuletahumileta, and humularia 936 . In the Sachsenspiegel 937  and the municipal law of Magdeburg (Weichbildsrechte 938 ), there is an order in regard to the hop-plants which grew over hedges. I shall omit the still more numerous instances where they occur in the fourteenth century as well as the proofs that hops were then cultivated in many parts of Germany; and it is perhaps true, as said by Möhsen, and after him by Fischer, on whose bare word however I do not entirely rely, that many towns in Germany were indebted for the great sale of their beer to the use of hops (which undoubtedly appears to be a German discovery), and to their peculiar goodness. However, it is certain that this method of seasoning beer was adopted at a much later period by our neighbours the English, Dutch, Swedes, and others.

If the two passages above quoted, where the word lupuli  occurs, be rejected because they are doubtful, I must consider this name of hops to be more modern than the word humulus ; and if this be true, it is impossible to believe, with Du Cange, that the latter was formed from the first by throwing away the initial letter. As yet I had not found the name lupulus  given to hops earlier than the thirteenth century.

About this time lived Simon of Genoa, commonly called Johannes de Janua  or Januensis, who also had the surname of Cordus. He was physician to Pope Nicholas IV.; afterwards chaplain and sub-deacon to Pope Boniface VIII.; and therefore flourished at the end of the thirteenth century. Of his writings none is better known, or was formerly more esteemed, than his Catholicon, a book in which he describes, in alphabetical order, all the substances then used in medicine, and on which, as he says himself, he was employed thirty years. In this dictionary, which is commonly considered as the first of the Materia medica, there is an article under the head lupulus, copied however from the before-mentioned Latin translation of Mesue, but with the addition, that this plant by the French and Germans is named humilis, and that the flowers of it were used in a beverage which he calls medo 939 . This Italian, however, does not seem to have been properly acquainted with the subject; for he tells us himself 940 , that under the name medo  or mead, is understood a beverage made of diluted honey, for which hops are never employed. In Italy also, at that time, hops were not in use. About the same period, Arnold de Villanova, in his commentary on the work on Regimen, published by John of Milan, in the name of the celebrated school of Salerno, mentions lupuli, and the use of them in brewing beer 941.

Professor Tychsen, to whose friendship I have been frequently indebted for assistance in my researches, suggested to me the conjecture that lupulus  perhaps is derived from lupinus, because Columella says that the bitter seeds of this plant were added, in Egypt, to beer in order to moderate its sweetness 942. This use is confirmed also by G. W. Lorsbach, from the Arabic historian Ebn Chalican 943. At any rate, this proves that in Egypt at that time bitter things began to be added to beer. It is also well known that in Italy lupines were rendered fit for the use of man as well as of animals, by macerating them in water 944 ; and I am of opinion, that on this account Varro required water to be in the neighbourhood of a farm-yard 945. Lupines softened in water are still employed for making dough. But if lupulus  was formed from lupinus, it must however be proved that the use of it for beer was common beyond the boundaries of Egypt. Even if we admit with Schöttgen, that the poet employs zythum  for beer in general, this beverage was never used in Italy, and I have met with no other mention of lupines in brewing.

In the breweries of the Netherlands, hops seem to have been first known in the beginning of the fourteenth century; for about this time we find many complaints that the new method of brewing with hops lessened the consumption of gruit, and also the income arising from gruitgeld. The word gruit  seems to have many meanings: in the first place it signifies malt; but though I formerly considered this as the proper meaning, and though some approved my opinion, I must confess that on further examination I am not able fully to prove it. In the second place, it signified a certain tax paid at each time of brewing: thirdly, a certain addition of herbs used for beer in the fourteenth century: and in the last place, the beer brewed with it was itself sometimes called gruit.

That this word always denoted malt is impossible; for it is said that after hops were introduced, less gruit  was used and sold than formerly had been the case. But how could hops be employed instead of malt? John, bishop of Liege and Utrecht, complained to the emperor Charles IV., that for thirty or forty years a new method of brewing, that is to say, with the addition of a certain plant called humulus  or hoppa, had been introduced, and that his income arising from gruitgeld  had been thereby much lessened. The emperor, therefore, in the year 1364, permitted him, for the purpose of making good his loss, to demand a groschen  for each cask of hops; and this right was confirmed to bishop Arnold by pope Gregory 946. By this and similar accounts I am induced to conjecture that a beverage composed of different herbs was at that time prepared, and that the sale of this mixture and of gruit  was converted into a so-called regale. Nay, it almost appears that gruit  was a fermenting substance, indispensably necessary to beer, instead of the yeast used at present.

According to every appearance the ancient beer could not be long kept; and beer fit to be preserved seems to have come into use after the introduction of hops. The oldest writers who treat of the good and bad effects of hops, reckon among the latter, that they dried up the body and increased melancholy; but among their good qualities, they praise their property of preserving liquors from corruption 947. It was soon remarked also, that the keeping of beer depended a great deal on the season in which it was brewed; for M. Anton quotes from the Ilm statutes of 1350, that people were permitted to brew only from Michaelmas to St. Walpurgis' day 948 ; at other times it was forbidden under certain penalties. At that period various kinds of beer seem to have been in use, and perhaps became fashionable instead of wine, coffee, and tea. Thus M. Anton quotes, from a Hervord document of the year 1144, cervisia mellita  and non mellita. However, even at present, honey is used for many kinds of beer; such for example as that brewed at Nimeguen, which has an extensive sale under the name of moll, a word derived no doubt from mollig, mild; which is applied also to wine. In the same manner the English used liquorice.

In England, the use of hops seems to have been introduced at a much later period; but it is said that they were at first considered as a dangerous production, and that the planting of them was forbidden in the reign of Henry VI., about the middle of the fifteenth century 949. This I will not venture to deny, though I very much doubt it. I have found no proof of it in any English writer, and I have searched in vain for the prohibition among the orders of that prince, in which however there occurs one in regard to malt 950. On the contrary, many English historians assert that the use of hops was first made known in England by some people from Artois, in the reign of Henry VIII., or about the year 1524 951. It is nevertheless true, that this sovereign, in an order respecting the servants of his household, in the twenty-second year of his reign, that is in 1530, forbade brewers to put into ale hops and sulphur 952. But perhaps his majesty was not fond of hopped beer. Even at present, most of the dictionaries call ale, beer brewed without hops; and an English physician says expressly that the difference between ale and beer is, that hops are not employed for the former 953. But according to the English instructions for brewing, hops are required for ale also.

In the English laws hops are mentioned for the first time in the fifth year of the reign of Edward VI., that is in 1552, at which period some privileges were granted to hop-grounds. The cultivation of hops however, which, like the art of brewing, has in England been carried to the greatest perfection, was very limited even in the beginning of the seventeenth century; for James I., in the fifth year of his reign, that is in 1603, found it necessary to forbid, under severe penalties, the introduction and use of spoilt and adulterated hops. At that time, therefore, England did not produce a quantity sufficient for its own consumption.

In Sweden, at least in the fifteenth century, hops seem not to have been very common 954 ; for at that time sweet gale (Myrica gale ) was employed for beer; and so generally, that king Christopher, in 1440, confirmed the old law, that those who collected this plant before a certain period, on any common or on another person's land, should be subjected to a fine. A similar punishment however was appointed for the too early picking of hops; and the cultivation of them was so strongly enforced, that every farmer who had not forty poles with hops growing round them was punished, unless he could show that his land was unfit for producing them 955.

But it was long doubted in Sweden whether this plant would thrive in the cold climate of that country; in which however it grows wild. In the time of Gustavus I., who became king in 1523, Sweden was obliged to give for the foreign hops it used 1200 schifpfunds  of iron, which was about the ninth part of all the iron made in the kingdom. In the year 1558 the king complained, in an edict, that a pound of hops cost as much as a barrel of malt, and on that account was desirous to encourage the cultivation of the hop-plant. But his exertions were attended with so little effect, that even under the reign of queen Christina, that is, in the middle of the seventeenth century, all the hops used in the kingdom were imported from Germany, and particularly from Brunswick and Saxony. The queen had some hop plantations as rarities in her garden; yet the cultivation of hops was begun under this princess, and carried so far that German hop farmers, who before had been accustomed to travel to Sweden every three years, to receive payment and take new orders, returned very much dissatisfied, and suffered a part of their hop-grounds to run to waste. Under Charles XI., however, who reigned from 1660 to 1697, the cultivation of hops was first brought to a state of considerable improvement.

In the year 1766, Linnæus hazarded a conjecture that hops, spinage, chenopodium, tarragon, and many other garden vegetables were brought to Europe by the Goths, during their periods of emigration, from Russia and particularly the Ukraine, because the old writers make no mention of these plants, and because in those districts they all grow wild at present 956. It however appears certain that hops belong to our indigenous plants, as they grow everywhere wild in Germany, Switzerland, England, and Sweden, and even in countries into which the cultivation of them has never yet been introduced, and where it cannot be supposed that they accidentally became wild by being conveyed from hop-fields and gardens. The want of information in works older than the emigrations of the northern tribes, is no proof that a plant did not then exist. At that time there was no Linnæus to transmit plants to posterity, as Hipparchus, according to the expression of Pliny, did the stars. Such vegetable productions only as had become remarkable on account of their utility or hurtful qualities, or by some singular circumstance, occur in the works of the ancients. Many others remained unknown, or at least without names, till natural history acquired a systematic form; and even at present botanists have often the satisfaction to discover some plant not before observed.

Is it probable that the Chinese even are acquainted with our hops? They have a kind of beer made from barley and wheat, which is called tarasun ; and according to the account of J. G. Gmelin, who purposely made himself acquainted with the preparation of it, hops formed by pressure into masses, shaped like a brick, are added to it 957. It is well known that the Chinese have also a kind of tea formed into cakes by strong pressure. Our hops are compressed in the same manner in Bohemia; and in that state will keep without losing any of their strength for fifty years. They are put into a sack or bag of coarse canvass, and subjected to a press. A square sewed bag, each side of which is two ells, contains fifty bushels of hops prepared in this manner; and when any of them are required for brewing, the bag is made fast to a beam, and as much as may be necessary is cut out with an axe. The whole mass is of a brown colour, and has a resemblance to pitch, in which not a single hop-leaf can be distinguished. Whether the Chinese conceived the idea of employing our common hops for the like purpose, is a question of some importance in regard to the history of them; but at present I am not able to answer it.

[Hops are extensively cultivated in Kent, Sussex, and Herefordshire; and to a less extent in Worcestershire, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Surrey, and several other counties.

From 50,000 to 60,000 acres of land are covered in England with hop-gardens, about one-half being in Kent; an excise duty of 18 s. 8 d. per cwt. is levied upon their produce. British hops are exported to Hamburg, Antwerp, St. Petersburg, New York, Australia, and other places. A trifling quantity is also imported, principally from Flanders. The duty on hops of the growth of Great Britain produced in 1842, £260,979.]


917  One of these, in particular, is J. F. Tresenreuter, in A Dissertation on Hops, which was printed at Nuremberg, 1759, 4to, with a preface by J. Heumann.

918  Σμίλαξ τραχεῖα.

919  Dioscor., iv. 244.

920  Hist. Plant. iii. 18.

921  xxi. 15, sect. 50.

922  Cato De Re Rustica, xxxvii. p. 55.

923  Most of the passages in ancient authors which relate to beer have been collected by Dithmar in his edition of Tacitus De Moribus German. cap. xxiii.; and by Meibom De Cerevisiis Veterum in Gronovii Thes. Antiq. Græc., ix. p. 548.

924  [The word humulus  is derived from humus, fresh earth, the hop only growing in rich soils.—Loudon and Sir W. Hooker.]

925  This valuable monument of antiquity is to be found in (Nyerup) Symbolæ ad Literaturam Teutonicam, sumtibus A. F. Suhm, Havniæ 1787, 4to, pp. 331, 404.

926  Lib. xviii. cap. 7.

927  Histor. Stirpium, ii. p. 290.

928  Biblioth. Botan. i. p. 161.

929  Originum lib. xx. 3, p. 487.

930  Speculum Naturale, lib. xi. 109.

931  Lib. v. cap. 7.

932  Joh. Mesuæ Opera. Venetiis, 1589, fol.

933  Du Cange Doublet Hist. Sandionys. i. 3, p. 669.

934  In C. Meichelbeck's Histor. Frising. I. Instrument. p. 359.

935  See the works quoted by Tresenreuter, p. 15: Pezii Thesaur. Anecdot. i. P. 3, pp. 68, 72.—J. C. Harenberg Histor. Gandersheim. p. 1350.—Eccard Origin. Saxon. p. 59.—Leukfeld Antiquit. Poeldens. p. 78.

936  F. G. de Sommersberg Silesiac. Rer. Scriptor. i. pp. 801, 829, 857.—Von Ludwig Reliq. Histor. v. p. 425.—Tresenreuter, p. 20, quotes later information in the fourteenth century.

937  L. ii. art. 52.

938  Art. 126.

939  For an account of the author and his works, which are now scarce, see Haller's Bibliotheca Botan. i. p. 222.

940  Article Ydromel.

941  This celebrated work, known as the Schola Salernitatis, was first printed in 1649, and has since been frequently republished and translated into various languages. A very complete edition, with an English version and a history of the book, was given by the late Sir Herbert Croft. The history of this book may also be found in Giannone's History of Naples.

942  [Loudon observes in his Encycl. Plants, that lupulus  is a contraction of Lupus salictarius, the name by which it was, according to Pliny, formerly called, because it grew among the willows, to which, by twining round and choking up, it proved as destructive as the wolf to the flock.]

943  Columella, x. 116. The root (radish?) was sliced and put into the Egyptian beer along with steeped lupines, in order to render it more palatable. Lorsbach über eine Stelle des Ebn Chalican. Marburg, 1789, 8vo, p. 21.

944  Plin. xviii. 14, sect. 36.—Geopon. ii. 39, p. 189, and the passages quoted there by Niclas: Galen. de Fac. Simpl. Med. vi. 144: and Alim. Fac. i. 30.

945  De Re Rustica, i. 13, 3.

946  This document is in Matthæi Analecta Vet. Ævi, iii. p. 260. See also Du Cange, under the word Grutt, and its derivatives.

947  St. Hildegard in Physicæ, lib. ii. cap. 74. Petro Crescentio d'Agricoltura, lib. vi. cap. 56. This writer lived in the thirteenth century.

948  A celebrated female saint of the eighth century, said to have been a native of England, but canonised in Germany, where she was abbess of a nunnery at Heidensheim in Thuringia.—Trans.

949  This is asserted in the Götting. Gel. Anzeigen, 1778, p. 323.

950  Statutes at Large, vol. i. p. 591.

951  Husbandry and Trade Improved, by J. Houghton. Lond. 1727, 8vo. ii. p. 457.—Anderson's Hist. of Commerce. [The fermented liquor anciently in use in this country is usually termed ale, but we have in fact no certain account of its composition, and all that is now known respecting it is, that it was a pleasant but intoxicating liquor. Our Saxon ancestors were so far addicted to its use, that so far back as the time of king Edgar, it was found necessary to order marks to be made in their cups at a certain height, beyond which they were forbidden to fill, under a severe penalty. This probably gave rise to the peg tankard, of which there are a few still remaining. It held two quarts, and had on the inside a row of eight pegs, one above the other, from top to bottom, so that the space between each contained half a pint. The law of compotation was, that every one who drank was to empty the exact space between peg and peg, and if he either exceeded or fell short of his measure, he was bound to drink down to the next. In archbishop Anselm's canons, made in the council of London, A.D.1102, we find an order, by which priests were enjoined not to go to drinking bouts, nor to drink to pegs.]

952  Archæologia, vol. iii. p. 157. [Indeed, at a much later period, the common council of the city of London petitioned parliament against the use of hops, “in regard that they would spoyl the taste of drinks and endanger the people.”—See Walter Blithe in his Improver Improved, published in 1649.]

953  Hamburgisches Magazin, xxxiii. p. 465.

954  Instead of this plant, which grows wild in Sweden, another wild plant in Germany called post, and by botanists Ledum palustre, was in old times used for beer by poor people in its stead; but it occasioned violent headaches.—See Linnæi Amœnitat. Acad. viii. p. 270. [This plant is still extensively used in the northern parts of Germany for imparting a bitter flavour to beer, although, owing to its deleterious nature, it is strictly forbidden by the laws. In this country Cocculus indicus  is sometimes employed for a like purpose.]

955  This law is said to have been made as early as the reign of Magnus Smeek; but it was confirmed by king Christopher in 1440, and by the command of Charles IX. was printed at Stockholm, in folio, in 1608, in a work entitled Swerikes Rijkes Landz-lagh. The passage which belongs to this subject stands in Bygninga Balker, cap. 49 and 50, p. xl. a.

956  Linnæi Amœnitat. Academ. vii. p. 452.

957  Gmelin's Reise durch Sibirien. Gött. 1752, 8vo, iii. p. 55.