HVG Germany: Hopfen



0 - 19th century 

From a wild herb to a worldwide sought-after cultivar: The ascent of hops goes hand in hand with the spread of the beer culture.
Therefore to obtain an overview on the history of hop-growing it is best to trace back the history of beer.

Without claiming to be complete - here is a summary of the most important events:

The era before Christ:
Drinks made from fermented grain are known throughout all continents and cultures. The initial forerunners of beer are also created like this. Egyptians and Phoenicians - according to tradition - were skilled In the craft of brewing. The Teutons improve the craft of brewing which continues spreading out during the Roman Empire. However beer is considered to be "Barbarian pigswill".

The era after Christ::
Beer sold in Germany, evidence on a beer merchant's stone found near Trier.

The Lex Alemannorum proclaimed by Duke Lantfrit of Swabia stipulates that beer be paid by the vassels as tithes to the feudal lords.

Oldest evidence of hop cultivation in Germany near Geisenfeld/Hallertau.

In the Middle Ages beer-making is concentrated on monasteries and principalities. However, at the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle in 817 beer is exalted as a "medicinal drink" because in the monasteries it is valued for medicinal purposes, it is indispensable more

Documentary evidence on hop-growing in Bohemia and in the present-day Czech Republic

Records from the monastery in Weihenstephan, the oldest brewery in the world still in use today

Records on hop-growing in the monasteries of the present-day Elbe-Saale region near Magdeburg

Emperor Barbarossa issues a new legal regulation in the town of Augsburg, the famous "Justitia Civitatis Augustensis". Even then the following is laid down for beer: "If a brewer makes bad beer or serves an unjust measure he shall be punished ..."

Around 1200

First evidence of beer being exported from North German breweries to Scandinavia and Flanders. Hamburg, a town in the Hanseatic League, is the most important hop market, the most important hop-growing area is the region now known as Mecklenburg.

First records on hop-growing in the Hersbruck region

First records on hop-growing in the Spalt region

1393: At the ruling of the town council from now onwards only barley may be used in brewing beer.

In 1363 twelve members of the town council are made responsible for beer.
In 1420: About thirty years later in 1420 the Munich town council stipulates that beer must be stored for a while after being brewed.
In 1447: The town councillors explicitly demand that the brewers only use barley, hops and water in brewing beer "... and put nothing else in it or they be punished for wrongdoing".

In 1447: The people of Regensburg instruct their town doctor to check the beer brewed in the town regularly and to keep an eye on what ingredients are put into the beer. Following bad experience by the town doctor they issue a brewing law In 1453.

Duchy of Bayern-Landshut

1493: For his entire duchy of Bayern-Landshut, the old Kingdom of Bavaria, Duke George the Rich promulgated this decree: "The brewers and others shall not use anything else other than solely malt, hops and water for the beer. These same brewers shall also not add anything to the beer when serving or handling beer, upon penalty to body and chattels." All these orders are supervised: Beer inspectors visit the brewers regularly, they examine the beer and taste it. They too are subject to stringent regulations and may only carry out a maximum of six examinations daily. In addition to this, on inspection days they may not eat meals which could affect their taste-buds nor are they allowed to drink wine or even to smoke.

Ingolstadt 23rd April, 1516
At the Bavarian Congress of Knights and Landed Gentry in Ingolstadt the Beer Purity Law is promulgated by Duke William V. for all Bavarian brewers.
The North German brewers, who have so far not been addressed due to their stringent guild ruling on beer qualities, have to look on while Bavaria quickly catches up. In Germany there are two different legal systems with regard to beer:

Municipal and guild laws in Northern Germany
During the Middle Ages beer is considered to be "food for townspeople" and Is subject to civil law which has developed in the towns and which represents the townspeople against the aristocracy and clergy. Here the laws regarding beer are therefore first and foremost a matter for the town councils and the guilds. .

Regional state law in southern Germany
In the South however the rulers exert direct influence on all the decrees which concern beer. This has a particularly positive effect on the Purity Law as it is immediately put into effect all over Bavaria. The stringent law sets a binding quality standard for the whole of Bavaria and puts a stop to all misconduct and adulteration. A tax for domestic beer is only introduced much later on in Bavaria, namely in 1572.
The Bavarian Purity Law gradually gains ground and is put into effect all over Germany even if the Bavarian regulation is not simply adopted.

Purity Law
"We decree, express and wish together with the Privy Council, that from this day forth everywhere in the Principality of Bavaria, in the country as well as in our towns and marketplaces wherever no other specific ordinance applies, from St. Michael's Day (29th September) until St. George's Day (23rd April) a measure (Bavarian measure = 1.069 litres) or a head (ladle for liquids - not quite equivalent to a measure) of beer shall not be sold for more than one pfennig in Munich currency and from St. George's Day until St. Michael's Day a measure shall not be sold for more than two pfennigs of the same currency, nor a head for more than three hellers. (heller = usually half a pfennig). Violators of this decree will be punished as quoted below. Whoever brews a beer other than Märzen is forbidden under any circumstances to serve or sell a measure for more than one pfennig

We especially wish that from this time onwards in our towns and marketplaces and everywhere in the country nothing is to be added to or used in beer other than solely barley, hops and water.

Whosoever knowingly disobeys this decree will be severely punished by the court which can confiscate his barrel of beer by law whenever this offence occurs.

Whenever an Innkeeper buys one, two or three pails (= contains approx. 60 litres) of beer at the prescribed price from any brewery In the country as well as in the towns and marketplaces, and sell it to the lowly peasantry he and nobody else is allowed to resell a measure or head of beer for one heller more than the price of the measure or head of beer stipulated above.

Also as rulers we reserve the right to order restrictions for the benefit of all as expressed and laid down below on the purchase in case great hardship occurs due to a lack of grain and price increase as the crops as well as the district and the ripening times vary in our country."

Issued by William IV.
Duke in Bavaria
on St. George's Day in Ingolstadt in the year 1516

Arrival of hops in England, probably introduced by Flemish immigrants. Ale is already being brewed but not hopped until the middle of the 16th century.

In the "Wenzel Contract" Bohemian noblemen force through the brewing rights for royal towns and the monasteries. This contributes to the breweries and hop production quickly spreading throughout Bohemia. .

The Eichstätt Prince-Bischop awards the first hop seal to the town of Spalt.

The Hofbräuhaus was founded in Munich. .

The 30-year war almost entirely ruins hop production in Northern Germany. Whereas in the South the viniculture is for the most part destroyed which after the war gives hops as Bavarian culture enormous impetus and makes it an economic factor. .

Immigrants bring the first hops from Europe to the USA.

USA: First breweries grow up in the region around Manhattan.

Jan van Riebeek llays out the first hop yard at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

The bottom-fermented art of brewing which spread out in the 15th century in the south presumably as a result of the Purity Law is obligatory in Bavaria. The production of top-fermented wheat beers is exclusively reserved for the electoral breweries.
Documentary evidence of hop-growing in Switzerland.

Efforts are made to reduce the amount of hops imported from Bohemia. The town of Hersbruck is awarded a hop seal and the production of hops is reglemented and promoted.

Bavaria: Electoral mandate to improve the quality of Bavarian hops. The hops which until then had for the most part been chopped now have to be handpicked as in Bohemia and the foliage and stems removed.

Hop production flourishes in Saxony and Thuringia.

First written instructions on growing hops by "experimental economists" like Christian Reichard

USA: Hop production spreads out in Massachussets.

Foundation of today's hop-trading firm Joh. Barth & Sohn.

First documented hop production on the Australian continent.

Founding of the Kingdom of Bavaria. Montgelas builds a strictly governed central state out of the fragmented region. Now all the main hop-growing regions in Germany are united in the kingdom. The state can now exert more influence on the hop industry.

Records are evidence for hops being grown from Passau up to the Rhineland.

At the proposal of J. N. von Lentz and dedicated citizens of Tettnang hop production begins in this region at Lake Constance.

Foundation of today's hop-trading firm S. S. Steiner

Official foundation of the Nuremberg hop market.

The first trials with artificial refrigeration begin in the Munich Spatenbrauerei under Carl v. Linde

Greatest expansion of hop production in the German Reich with 47,391 hectares.

The crown cap is invented by William Painter, an American.

Baden adopts the Purity Law.

Württemberg adopts the Purity Law.

The Purity Law comes into effect in every part of the German Reich. .

As a pioneer in breeding hops Prof. E. S. Salmon does the first crossings at the North Eastern Agricultural College in Wye.
Amongst others, he is the father of the varieties "Brewers Gold", "Northern Brewer" and "Boullion".