First use of hops in brewing beer

Among the basic ingredients for brewing, hops have become the most famous in recent years, since the birth of the “Craft” movement. Some of its functions in beer are the contribution of bitterness and prolong the conservation of this drink. However, among water, cereal malt, yeast and hops, the latter was the most recent staple ingredient to enter beer. Before him, a mixture of different aromatic herbs and spices called “gruit” was used, whose composition varied greatly depending on the region in which it was used, but the plant with the greatest presence in these mixtures was Myrica gale . In the stories about brewing beer in Mesopotamia and Egypt, herbs and spices were already mentioned that were added to improve their preservation and flavor.

Detalle de Myrica gale, la planta más utilizada en la elaboración de cerveza antes del uso de lúpulo.
Figure 1 . Detail of Myrica gale , the most commonly used plant in brewing beer before the use of Humulus lupulus .

    Origin of hops

    It is likely that the genus Humulus originated in Mongolia about six million years ago. In its expansion, a million years ago, a strain reached Europe, separating itself from the Asian group. About 500,000 years later, another group of hops would arrive in North America. After this distribution, a population of hops in the Caucasus region was genetically isolated, where native tribes were also found, including the Ossetians and the Khevsur. These hops are known to have been collected and used by these tribes, and it was suspected that they could be used to brew beer early in the Cristina Era. But the idea was discarded, because at that time, due to commercial ties, the practices on how the beer was made traveled throughout Europe and the use of hops would have spread more or the hopped beers of these tribes would be known.

    First crops

    It is difficult to find out where and when hops were grown in the past, because their pollen is identical to that of hemp and archaeological evidence is difficult to obtain. To identify it, its small fruits and bracteoles that may have been preserved in flooded areas are recognized, providing evidence of where Humulus lupulus appeared. The first remains that suggest the cultivation of hops and its possible use for brewing were observed in western Switzerland and France, dating from between the 6th and 9th centuries. The cultivation begins to spread in the 11th and 12th centuries in western and northern Central Europe, abundant in the Netherlands, northern Germany and the Czech Republic. At that time, the oldest sources that mention the possible first Humulus lupulus cultures are found. The first of them dates from the year 768 AD. C., when King Pepin the Short donated all the humlonarias (hop gardens) to the basilica of Saint-Denis, in France. But it is not entirely clear if the word humlonaria refers to the cultivation of hops or is simply the name of a place. The aforementioned investigations suggest that hops were produced there during the Medieval period, but the confusion arises because in the Capitulare de villis vel curtis imperii of Carlo Magno, son of Pepin the Short, the plant is not recorded of hops, since in this document all the real properties are regulated, also mentioning all the cultivated plants.

    Estructura de una planta de lúpulo que se utiliza para la elaboración de cerveza.
    Figure 2 . Structure of a Humulus lupulus plant, male and female.

    Records of the earliest uses of hops in beer

    The first evident and written record of the use of Humulus lupulus in brewing is documented in the statutes of Abbot Adelard of Corbie Abbey, northern France, in AD 822. C., which in turn, Adelardo was a cousin of Charlemagne. These statutes reflect the activities that must be carried out in the abbey, one of which is to always have hops for brewing. That same year, 822 AD. C., Abbot Adelardo founded together with his brother Wala the Abbey of Corvey, near the Wester River, Germany, whose statutes also indicate the collection of hops. At that time, hops were not yet grown, but were picked in the wild. The first unequivocal mentions of hop crops are mentioned in documents from the Abbey of Freising, Bavaria, between the years 859 and 875. So the use of hops for brewing seemed to be common in some monasteries at that time.

    El Abad Adelardo de Corbie (izquierda), quien reflejó por escrito por primera vez el uso del lúpulo en la elaboración de cerveza.
    Figure 3 . Abbot Adelardo de Corbie (left), who first reflected in writing the use of hops in brewing beer.

    The practice of using hops in brewing beer was spreading and increasingly documented throughout Europe, although it took centuries for hopped beers to become dominant. What was not indicated in these documents was at what point in the making the hop flowers were added, up to 300 years later, when Abbess Hildegard of Bingen of the Rupertsberg Monastery, in her work on Physica (1150 - 1160) points out that hops were boiled together with the wort to achieve its preservative properties: " If you want to make a beer with oats and hops, also boil it with the addition of" gruz "and several ash leaves, since beer purges the stomach of the drinker and soothe your chest "; He also adds: " Its bitterness, however, when added to beverages, prevents rotting of these and gives them greater durability ". What Hildegard de Bingen did not explain was how brewmasters discovered the usefulness of boiling hop flowers with wort to extract their bitter and preservative properties, a fact that will forever remain a mystery.


    Behre, KE. (1999) The history of beer additives in Europe – a review. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany: 8, pages 35 – 48.

    Eslinger, H. M. (2009) Handbook of Brewing: Processes, Technology, Markets. Wiley-VCH, New York, New York, Estados Unidos.

    Hieronymus, S. (2012) For the Love of hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops. Brewers Publications, Boulder, Colorado, Estados Unidos.

    Licencia Creative Commons
    This work is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Go up

    Utilizamos cookies propias y de terceros para obtener datos estadísticos de la navegación de nuestros usuarios y mejorar nuestros servicios. Si acepta o continúa navegando, consideramos que acepta su uso. Puede cambiar la configuración u obtener más información aquí.