England’s Increasing Concern Over Beer Brewing, 1430s to 1580s

I have a thing for a beer I have never had. Double Double. As I understand it, this beer was made by recirculating perfectly good wort and rebrewing it through a new batch of malt. In the mid-1500s, it was a great bother for the nation, it even gets a mention in Shakespeare,* somewhat in open view. In 1560, Queen Elizabeth became directly involved as the supply of single beer was tightening.  She ordered that brewers should brew each week “as much syngyl as doble beare and more.” Hornsey discusses a 1575 letter from the Earl of Leicester discussing a trip he took with Elizabeth, a summary of which from another source is noted above. When she wanted refreshment, she found her ale was as strong as Malmsey, heavy sweet strong Madiera wine. Not pleased.**

In the article “The London Lobbies in the Later Sixteenth Century” by Ian Archer, published in 1988 in The Historical Journal the resulting legal restrictions on brewing double double within and near to London was discussed:

The parliamentary diarist Cromwell describes a bill in 1572 “restraining the bruing of double double ale or doble double beere within the Citie or iij miles thereof, and no beere to be sould above 4s. the barrel1 the strongest, and 2s. the single beere.”

Archer explains that the goal of the regulation of ‘double double’ beer was supposed to ensure that the most intoxicating and expensive of beverages were not available to the poor, while also limiting the consumption of grain. To that, we might also add the waste of wood. England in the mid and later 1500s was not only facing speculation in malt  was having a fuel crisis. Whole forests had been lost. Double double requires not only the loss of volumes of single ale and beer to the production process but also a second firing of fuel. The Common Council of the City of London had regulated double double for years before the statute of 1572 was considered. In 1575, as we can see above to the right, another general statute against the brewing of double double throughout all of England was before Parliament. Notice, too, that it was the brewing of both double double beer as well as double double ale that was being reined in by the law. The hopping of the beer in itself was not key to the question.

Beer brewers themselves were a bit suspect at this time. Strangers. Archer states that the Brewers’ Company was an unpopular group dominated by aliens and thought to be profiteering at the expense of the poor. As we saw a few weeks ago, “aliens” or “strangers” were foreign nationals who were subject to being recorded in a  form of census. Yet, of the 1400s mood one can state that “stranger beer brewers found the Crown to be an ally throughout the fifteenth century because of their ability to supply beer to the military.” We also remember that Henry VIII created a beer brewing complex in 1515 at Portsmouth to supply the needs of his navy. Prior to that, the English navy had to buy beer from a group of 12 brewers in London. Probably including many alien beer brewers.

The role of hopped beer in military victuals continued.  In 1547, the supplying of the Scottish town in England, Berwick, required a steady provision of beer by the tun. Likely in support of the army of Edward Seymour, maternal uncle of Edward VI, who upon the death of Henry VIII became Lord Protector. The expedition culminated in the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in which 8,000 Scots were killed to 250 English. All too reminiscent of the outcome of that 1513 misadventure at Flodden when 10,000 Scots died and the English leader Lord Howard noted:

The Scots had a large army, and much ordnance, and plenty of victuals. Would not have believed that their beer was so good, had it not been tasted and viewed “by our folks to their great refreshing,” who had nothing to drink but water for three days.

In a letter dated 29 January 1587, James Quarles, the surveyor general of victuals for the navy sets out his request to regularize the supply of provisions as England prepared to face the Spanish threat. He requests continued control of Her Majesty’s brewhouses, bakeshouses and storehouses and then sets the standard for a pottle of beer per seaman a day, at a price of 1 and 3/4 pence per day. Interestingly, he also notes that a tun of beer had increased in price by about 50% from the 1540s to the 1580s, from 18 shillings to 26 shillings 8 pence. As noted above, resources like fuel and malt were tightening.

While both the armies and navies of England depended on hopped beer, the civic beer brewers were not only suspect but, like the state run beer breweries of the later 1500s, they were busy. As we noted before, Kristen D. Burton in this 2013 article describes the scale of brewing being undertaken in the whole of the City of London during Tudor times:

The beer brewers of London established England’s capital city as the leading producer of beer throughout Europe by the end of the sixteenth century; a notable feat considering the late arrival of hopped beer to England. In 1574, London beer brewers produced 312,000 barrels of beer and by 1585 that had increased to 648,690 barrels…

Scale. So, it may be that beer brewing was more welcome or less of a concern to England in the middle of the 1400s than in the latter 1500s. Or perhaps it was too critical to the nation. This might go a bit against the existing narrative. Perhaps that is because it was first a fairly benign practice in harbour towns supplying the immigrant community. Hops being imported from the continent, just a few bales at a time as in 1480. One hundred years later, it has gone from being perhaps a local port town quirk to a key military asset to a danger to social order if let loose without controls on its supply, strength and price.

If that is all correct, one of the keys to the advancement of hopped ale was not consumer preference so much as military demand. Beer was stable where ale was transitory. Beer could be held on a ship or in preparation for a battle on the field. Ale needed constant production. It also needed rationing if that was the case. And Double Double, perhaps the sucker juice of its day, was no part of a rational rationing program.

Its last sighting was in Schenectady, New York in 1820 of all places and times.  A few weeks ago, Craig unpacked the history of the brewers of that beer. They were men in transit during the great push west, the brewing of a Double Double apparently also transitory. Will I ever have one? I expect so. Perhaps Jeff is right and we are ripe for the wheel turning again. A massively malty beer would be just about right for a return to garage punk band brewing, shrugging off this era of discontent, this time of disco brewing of Franken-beers as foreign to ale as Malmsey.

*Conversely, Shakespeare gives “good double beer” a fairly respectful mention in Henry VI, Part 2, Scene III care of that unforgettable character, the Third Neighbour: “And here’s a pot of good double beer, neighbour: drink, and fear not your man.” Also note that it is beer, not ale. The play is set in around the last half of the 1440s so very little beer going about, one would have thought. Perhaps an anachronism? Or maybe a coy cultural reference to something lost to time.
**Not a wine without an unblemished past in court circles.

Putting The 1390-91 Crusade Beer Buying Notes Through A Latin Translator

Now, as you know, I did take one year of Latin in undergrad but it’s not like I learned anything. So, the other day, when I found the notes from the provisioning of the English forces in the 1390-91 crusade eventually against the Lithuanians, I knew it was provisioning notes in Latin but there were plenty of assumptions. For example, when I read this from the 10 September 1390 provisioning records:

Clerico buterie super beer, pro iij barellis de beer emptis ibidem, xxx scot. Et pro ij barellis beer emptis ibidem, xxij scot. Et pro portagio dicte beer…

I made at least one error in relation to “emptis” and its variant conjugation siblings as well as the various declinations of “ibid…” “Emptis” is not related to empty beer barrels. It’s the verb for purchasing. And the final “j” in numerals is just a “i” like the rest. I thought it might be another indicator for a five. So, the translator give us this:

Clerk buterie the beer, the beer purchased for three barellw place, thirty Scot. He bought beer for two barellw place, twenty Scot. And portagio said beer …

Which I might clean up as:

The Clerk of the Buttery bought three barrels from the same place. He bought two barrels from the same place. And delivery for the beer…

I left out the price. Notice that the three barrels cost “xxx” thirty currency units but the two barrels cost “xxij” or twenty-two units. Different grades of beer? The currencies are also odd. Nearby we read “Clerico buterie super beer pro iij barellis beer emptis ibidem, j marc. vj scot.” which seems to suggest three barrels were bought at the same place for one marc and six Scots – which means one mark is worth 24 of those Scots thingies if the price for three barrels were stable. Consider this note of wine and beer purchases on 26 August 1390 which may give a hierarchy of currency units:

CLERICO buterie super vino per manus eorundem pro vino ibidem empto, ij marc. xxij scot. ij s. pr. Clerico buterie super beer, pro beer empta ibidem ix scot., viij d.

Marc. > scot. > s. > d.? The last are likely shilling and penny but what are “marc.” or “scot.”? All seem to be abbreviations given they are followed by a period. Crack that question and this document is a playground for anyone trying to work out beer prices on the eastern Baltic markets in the 1390 during an inflationary setting such as a crusade.

Oh… that might be just me.

OK – various sources of the currencies must be being described. A Hanseatic  League mark? Or a Scottish merk? “Scot.” could well be the Scottish pound which was worth 1/12th of an English pound and 150% of a merk – and made up of 20 shillings with 12 pence each.  Which makes it more sensible as the price point of a barrel of beer. But were they are actually using Scots money? No. Here is a helpful table from the introduction to 1894’s hit text Expeditions to Prussia and the Holy Land Made by Henry Earl of Derby (afterwards King Henry IV.) in the Years 1390-1 and 1392-3Being the Accounts Kept by His Treasurer During Two Years, Volume 52

So, they are using local money as they are fighting along side the Teutonic Order against then mighty Lithuania just prior to the formation of the very mighty Polish-Lithuanian alliance.

Going to leave it there for now. Internet getting dodgy. Wind storm and thunder in February. Odd doings.

UPDATE: Interesting chat on Twitter pointed out that “cervisia”* would have referenced ale, not hopped beer.  This is more directly illustrated by the contemporary Dunster Castle household accounts kept by John Bacwell, Steward, from 27 June 6 Henry IV, to 27 June 7 Henry IV (or 1405-1406) in which the word is included in this record from 11 June 1406:

In factura 6 barelles pro cervisia imponenda 2s, Et pro 1 eerda et 2 citulis’ prope novum fontem faetum emptis 2s.

So, if that word ceruisia was ale and that word appears in the accounts for the 1390 expedition, then the same account kept by the same clerk of the buttery using the word beer should be expected to mean another substance. And logically that substance would… beer. Local hopped beer.

*Or as Martyn noted a decade ago, a variant of that spelling.

Notes: Flemmynges, Hans Beerpot, Thirsty Actors And An Odd Crusade

A bit of a jumble, this post. First, here’s an interesting 15th century slag:

Ye have herde that twoo Flemmynges togedere
Wol undertake or they goo ony whethere
Or they rise onys, to drynke a baralle fulle
Of gode berkeyne; so sore they hale and pulle
Undre the borde they pissen as they sitte

Those Dutch – they get so drunk they just urinate under the table as they sit drinking their beer! These sweet poetic thoughts are from Libelle of Englyshe Polycye, a short treatise in verse from the 1430s pumping up mercantile jingoism. I came upon it in the book Representations of Flemish Immigrants on the Early Modern Stage looking for references to a slightly later form of anti-Dutch slag, the stock theatrical character Hans Beerpot. We still have loads of lingering anti-Dutch sentiment in the English language hidden in phrases like “Dutch courage” (drunkenness) and “double Dutch” (lying) and even “going Dutch” on a date (formerly being cheap, now perhaps egalitarian) but I had presumed they arose in the 1600s when England and the Dutch battled for naval domination of the North Atlantic and the North Sea. I was about two hundred years too late in my thinking.

Point? This all ties into my recent noodlings about the question of when the English first brought beer to North America – which I presume depends on when beer first got to the ports of England from which expeditions to North America disembarked.* And, yes, the life in those ports was fairly beery in the first half of the 1400s. In “The Civic Franchise and the Regulation of Aliens in Great Yarmouth” by Liddy and Lambert, we read at page 131:

Cornelius Shipmayster, who also went by the name of Cornelius Ducheman, mariner, kept a hostel in the 1440s; his wife was fined for being a tippler of beer, and it is probably that she sold the beer her husband brewed. Beer production rose substantially in the autumn, to cater to the visiting merchants from the Low Countrys and during the quiet season men such as Robert Phelison were able to pursue multiple trades: a resident of the south leet, he brewed beer, ran an alehouse, and owned a fishing boat, which was arrested for naval service in 1437. In this multi-occupational community, hostelling and beer brewing were often practiced together.

Which leads to an observation: you have to slag someone’s nationality for being beer drinking drunkards only after observing them being beer drinking drunkards. So for the Dutch or Flemish or other sorts of low country aliens to be the focus of slagging they needed to be (i) present in England, (ii) drinking hopped beer and (ii) disorderly drunk.  The stereotype is framed in Hans Beerpot from the 1550s play Wealth and Health.** He arguably plays no function other than to arrive in the plot as a stranger, drunk, singing in Dutch and (as an additional sixteenth century touch) representing military menace. But that’s all a bit late for my purposes. I’m interested in earlier things.

Context. The War of the Roses came to a head in the 1450s just when the Hundred Years War was ending with English loss of French possessions, including Bordeaux where (as mentioned a few posts ago) Bristol had had a thriving wine trade.  There was still a spot of the plague going about. Normal ties, internal and external to England, were being disrupted as the very question of being English was being framed. No wonder aliens were being registered. No wonder the ways of the Dutch amongst them were being observed.

Anyway, this is about beer, right? Let’s go a little earlier.  Three records of the Cofferers’ Accounts of the Gild Merchant of Reading, Berkshire from 1420, 1424 and 1427 seem to indicate part payment to theatrical players was in terms of hopped beer: seruicia or ceruisia in Latin. A later similar record from the 1452 accounts of St George’s Chapel of Windsor, Berkshire again for the part payment of actors states:

Et in ceruisia data lusoribus recitantibus ludum habitum in Collegio erga donatoris festum.

Were these all Dutch actors? Maybe. They were likely travelers, at least. But that makes an odd parallel pattern. Flems in port towns and actors liked hopped beer in the early 1400s. So, to find more similar patters, searches for variants of the root of the now familiar cerveza might be in order to see what might be up.***

And we find some in the 1390 accounts of another sort of traveling, the expedition led by then Earle of Derby, later Henry IV (reign 1399-1412),  crusading through Prussia and, surprisingly, on to Lithuania. In a sort of code mixing English, Latin, French and plenty of numbers you see plenty of  interesting references. When the force passes through the friendly lands of the Hanseatic ports en route, Derby’s clerk of the buttery starts buying beer along with wine and sometimes mead. As a result and for example, in September 1390 we read this sort of expense (amongst hundreds) being recorded:

Clerico buterie super beer per manus Gylder, pro j barello de beer, pro portagio et tractagio beer et vini…

Looks to be a bill for the beer, for the barrel in which the beer sit as the hauling of the beer as well as wine. There are a lot of accounts like that on the expedition. A lot. Which is interesting. Because here we have Englishmen drinking a hell of a lot of beer over a long period of time. High status folk. Well before beer is considered to have been consumed much in England by Englishmen. Never thought to look for that sort of thing before.

Flems in England in the 1430s, actors in England in the 1420s and English crusaders in the 1390s. All having hopped beer very early in the timeline. I have to think about what this might add up to, if anything.

*This approach entirely sets aside the question of Viking brewing hundreds of years earlier in what is now Newfoundland but bear with me on that.
**See “Toward a Multicultural Mid-Tudor England: The Queen’s Royal Entry Circa 1553, and the Question of Strangers in the Reign of Mary I” by Scott Oldenburg – and especially the discussion around pages 110 to 115. The character also appears in the 1618 play Hans Beer Pot, his Invisible Comedy of See me and See me not by Daubridgecourt Capability Belchier.
***Examples of treachery in such matters abound. Consider the 1417 appendix to a will in which the summary states beer was to be brewed but the details make it clear it’s ale that being ordered by the future deceased.

 

In 1480 Two Bales Of Hops Came To Bristol

That image above is from The Overseas Trade of Bristol in the Middle Ages, a publication of the Bristol Record’s Society Publications. The BRS is now one of my favorite things, a society dedicated to record keeping. Interestingly, there is one data point in this record that is not really referenced on the map. The passage taken by one ship that landed at Bristol on 24 February 1480. The record for that voyage reads as follows:

Fascinating. What that means is a ship registered to the Basque port of Guetaria named the Seint Sebastian, with someone named Lope as her master, sailing from Flanders came to Bristol on 24 February 1480 carrying madder, tar, wainscot and hops. The ship is en route to the south but stops in at Bristol, a half point between Flanders and what is now in northern Spain.

Look at the offloaded cargo. Madder is a plant that gives a red dye. Tar is likely pine tar which was a product of the far eastern reaches of Baltic Hansa. And wainscot (anglicized from the Dutch word wageschot) was measured by the hundreds as we see with that “C” and a fine grade of lumber for interior paneling. And those hops.

Look at the hops record.* Notice that the hops are in identified units. Two bales. Not just some plant matter slung in the corner of the hold. They have a recipient listed: John Cockis. So, it is a shipment and not just a delivery on speculation to be sold on the wharf. It is a priced. Three pounds for the two bales. It is worth less per bale than the madder. And that price relates customs valuation. Which means there was a process for valuing hops. And a customs duty that would apply to their three pounds of value on their importation. All a very formal affair. Very bureaucratic. Very legal. Very normal.

Interesting. Lots to think about with that wee record.

*page 258.

 

Another Brief Update On That Nagging Beery Bristol Question…

What a time to be a beer blogger. So sad so few of us are left to have all this fun! Do I speak of the switch in ownership of a beloved British brewer? The last try or dry of this the first month? No, it’s that idea of when did hopped beer really was brewed or showed up in and, then, was shipped out from British ports as a recognized commercial product.

I have happily read through and even negotiated electrical interconnection agreements. One lawyer more experience gave me the best advice early on. You have to obey the electrons. Similarly with history. It is not just that you need to get the facts straight. You need to obey the chronology. So, if I am being obedient, I need to know that hopped beer was in the ports and that ships were leaving the port in something like that order.

All of which is to say that it was very good to come across the paragraph to the right in 2002’s England and the German Hanse, 1157-1611: A Study of Their Trade and Commercial Diplomacy at page 81 where  beer is described as “the new drink promoted aggressively by north German merchants in the late fourteenth century.” And it is beer being delivered, granted in small quantities, in London. The 1384 shipping record being mentioned is 17 years earlier than the 1401 shipment to Hull on the Elyn I mentioned last time. Which is good. And which sort of indicates to me what is logical – hopped beer showed up as a finished product before hopped beers were brewed domestically.*

As part of scratching at this itch, a bought a copy of The Widening Gate: Bristol and the Atlantic Economy, 1450-1700 on eBay which proved to be a helpful step in clarifying another record mentioned last time, the one about the two brewers apparently referenced in the alien subsidies. I had no idea what the subsidies were but, care of this helpful guide, starting in the middle of the 1400s near the end of the Hundred Years’ War a sort of census listing all residents immigrants was kept. And a small tax or subsidy was paid by the person in question once identified:

Justices of the Peace (JPs) were to assess who was liable to pay the alien subsidy. Names were returned to the Exchequer, which would then issue lists to the relevant sheriff or civic officials, ordering them to collect the tax.  The JPs used juries made up of local men to identify the alien residents in their area… These local men used their general knowledge to identify aliens in their area. Some aliens were identified by their accent and language, some by their name. Some, whose actual origin may have been uncertain, were simply known not to have been born in England.

The helpful guide led to another website containing the complete England’s Immigrants 1330–1550 database which allows you to search by factors like  name, name era within the period and trade. And so, lo and behold, we can see that one of the two immigrant brewers listed in the census for Bristol in 1441 was named Germanus Pownham of St. James Ward. While not in all records, we can see on this list of all 56 alien brewers that many of these brewers nationalities were listed. Scots, French and Irish are joined by others described as being a “Hollander” or “Brabanter” or having their origin in Lucca in Tuscany. Mr. Pownham’s is not listed but with the first name “Germanus” there is at least a reasonable chance he was German. Was he brewing German style hopped beer? The record actually doesn’t say.

The key for me is that, in addition to there being a Hanseatic depot at Bristol, both the beer and the brewer sufficiently predate long distance trade explorations out of England – including Bristol. Two expeditions for spice and silk to the Middle East are described in The Widening Gate in the mid-1400s. Both end in disaster at the hands of Italian merchant navies. Apparently, Genoa controlled the Mediterranean in much the same way the Hanseatic League managed the Baltic and North Seas. So, the idea that the Cabots – either John in the 1490s or his son Sebastian in the early 1500s – brought beer along with them when they crossed the Atlantic is not far fetched at all. All I need, as I wrote last time, is a record or two. Well, now another record or two.

*And all of which aligns with Martyn’s short history of hops in England from 2009.

Beer And Trans-Atlantic English Explorations Of The Later 1400s

That passage above is from the The Voyage Made by M. John Hawkins Esquire, 1565. According to the wisdom of Wikipedia, Hawkins was the chief architect of the Elizabethan navy, the first English trader to profit from the Triangle Trade and Treasurer of the Navy from 1577 to 1595. Its from a part of his journal that records French colonial efforts in Florida at their short lived Fort Caroline. While the colony had only been settled in 1564, they had already turned local grapes into wine, apparently the first in North America.

It’s not the earliest record of alcohol use in North America – even if it might be the earliest of production. We have seen before how the French were drinking cider as they worked the Newfoundland shore in the 1520s. But what is interesting to me is that the French in Florida had their choice of products, given the ample source of good bread making grain, but made wine. Which is reasonable as wine is simpler to make than beer, given there is no intermediary stages like malting or mashing.

A few years ago now, I discussed the  provisioning of Martyn Frobisher’s 1578 voyage to mine iron ore on Baffin Island in Canada’s Arctic. The post was based on my luck find of the victualing records. Have a look by clicking on the image to the right. You can see how much biscuit, meal, beer, wine and pork was loaded on board. Note: beer, not malt. He was not brewing beer up on Baffin that year. I’ve discussed late 1500s trans-Atlantic ships’ provisions of malt before, too.

I have been a bit fruitlessly looking for more of those sorts of records, feeling a bit like Manilov in Dead Souls, not getting very deep into things.  I want to turn the clock back further, back past Cartier in the mid-1530s. I have been primarily thinking about what was down in the hold of John Cabot‘s ships on his 1490s voyages to eastern Canada. Until I got into the Cabot era, I had no idea how lucky I was finding the record for Frobisher. An actual victualing bill from the 1570s. Lucky also that the scholarship on that adventurer was not as quirky and proprietary as was the case (perhaps until recently) with Cabot. That has recently broken somewhat in recent years. In 2012, The New York Times reported:

In 2010, an international team of scholars working together in what is called the Cabot Project came upon a set of 514-year-old Italian ledgers that Dr. Ruddock had found decades earlier but which had disappeared from view. They showed that in the spring of 1496, Cabot received seed money for his voyages from the London branch of a Florentine banking house called the Bardi.

Plenty has come out related to the new Cabot findings that has given me a bit more hope. We know that Henry the VII gave notice in 1496 that Cabot was authorized to buy victuals for his first voyage and also authorized the second voyage in 1498. We also know that in 1499, a Bristol merchant named William Weston sailed to Newfoundland.* Cabot also might have settled friars at Carbonear, Newfoundland on his third voyage. But there is that problem of the vulnerability of scholarship… ie, people who I can poach from. That hoarders of ideas Cabot scholar Ruddock died in 2005 and Peter Pope who wrote wonderfully about the early Newfoundland trade died in 2017. So I am left to my own wits.

Which means I have to come up with rules for my own research. What do we know? Well, we do know that Bristol was the gateway for English expeditions to the west just as London and other eastern facing ports served, generally speaking, the North and Baltic Seas. In particular, Bristol had a flourishing wine trade in the 1400s. The quantities involved were significant – between 1,000 and 2,500 tons of wine a year through the 1400s, depending on the politics. We have to recall that the English held Gascony from the 1200s until the 1450s. Gascony is know for wine, even including the Bordeaux region. Bristol was where that wine was received for English consumption. So, it is reasonable to expect provisioning of vessels leaving Bristol in the 1400s to have a supply of wine.

Additionally, to find trans-Atlantic provisioning records you need to find trans-Atlantic voyages. Where were the merchant adventurers of Bristol during the English Renaissance sailing towards? First, we have to remember that the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance ratified at the Treaty of Windsor in 1386 is arguably the oldest alliance in the world. The Portuguese were also makers of wine for the English market as well as explorers. And that wine landed at Bristol. So they were sailing back and forth from there. Voyages, trade links and colonization out into the Atlantic was not a particularly wide-spread European habit before the 1400s. The Canary Islands, populated by a semi-Stone Age people, the Guanches, were only taken by Spain in 1402. Yet trade links with Iceland were developed by Bristol’s merchants by the mid-1400s which included a:

diversity in food [which] increased as the English… imported large quantities of beer and wine, salt and pepper, malt, wheat, sugar and honey.

Which means if the Bristol merchants are shipping beer to Iceland… there is beer on Bristol ships heading north. And, fabulously, malt. And other targets for the adventurous traders of Bristol were developed like the voyage of the Trinity in 1480-81 seeking out opportunity in North Africa. Was there beer in that hull, too?  It’s not unreasonable to think so. We do know that the well-armed naval merchants of the Baltic-based Hanseatic League did not themselves get out into the Atlantic but they did bring hopped beer to England as early as the mid-1200s.  Remember the cargo of beer brought on the Elyn of 1401. Which means that you have the conditions to have hopped beer moving out of England, too, as a transferred on trade good. Quite a bit early than I had thought.

I will illustrate my working date with some fairly common understanding of dates. Professor Unger identified “about 1520” as the time when the English mastered the new technology of brewing beer with hops. That is backed up by the records showing written references to “hops” or “hoppes” were not so common until about that same time. Yet, if you dig around the records a bit, that date starts to look a bit late. In records (“alien subsidies”) of foreign merchants for Bristol in the mid-1400s we read that:

…the returns to the 1449 and 1453 alien subsidies, which in some cases give either occupational descriptions or surnames that suggest an occupation: there are two beer-brewers, two tailors, a pinner, pointmaker (maker of laces for securing clothing), shearman, bellmaker, leatherworker, goldsmith, smith and, possibly, heardsman…

Which means that there were two immigrant beer brewers in Bristol well before Cabot and about the time of the Icelandic trade. Which means the beer heading north could well have been English beer and even made close to the port.  Further, in the 2014 PhD dissertation by  John R. Krenzke of Loyola University in Chicago, “Change Is Brewing: The Industrialization of the London Beer-Brewing Trade, 1400-1750” we read, at page 42, that a similar timeline is at play in London:

Ale brewers were successful in 1484 in having the City of London lay down the ingredients that could be used in ale brewing—“only liquor (heated water), malt, and yeast”—to limit the competition that ale brewers faced from beer brewers. In response the beer brewers of London were able to obtain a charter to become their own guild in 1493. The two groups were to remain apart and in direct competition to each other until 1556 when they were merged.

The “stranger” beer brewers were allowed to sell beer freely in London in 1477 and were not as unwelcome at all as we read on page 7:

…at first, beer remained primarily a beverage brewed by foreigners, known as strangers to their English hosts, for themselves and, because of its stability, for English soldiers. Stranger beer brewers found the Crown to be an ally throughout the fifteenth century because of their ability to supply beer to the military.

Nothing like government demand to validate new technology. And we need to recall in all this that Henry VIII himself created great state-owned naval brewing capacity at Portsmouth in 1515, producing 500 barrels per day to supply his military ambitions. Just before Unger’s date of 1520. The question, then, is how large the capacity of the privately operating beer brewers of Bristol was half a century earlier and did it supply the merchant adventurer ships heading west to Canada in the 1490s. That is the question I need to dig at. All the conditions are present: confident merchant adventurers, established beer brewing and thirst. All we need is a record or two.

*Much more here on the scale of the oceanic Bristol trade missions in “The Men of Bristol and the Atlantic Discovery Voyages of the Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Centuries,” the MA Thesis of Annabel Peacock from 2007.

 

À La Recherche Du Bière Perdu

Sitting here with benignly received stitches in my mouth, it’s not only that I look back with fondness on that time before a week ago that I could have a drink. It’s looking back with fondness that I could have anything pretty much not in paste form. I did have a bun the other day. Took me 27 minutes to eat it. Which reminds me of other looking back fondly at the joyful consumption as with this archaeological dig in England:

Once at the cutting edge of Oxford University, the friary building was either torn down or at least fell into disuse during the mid 1500s when the Franciscans fled the country during the dissolution of the monasteries. Built over for many centuries, it is only thanks to redevelopment for a new shopping centre that archaeologists have been able to delve into the treasures it contains. ‘Greyfriars’, as it was known, was home to both the friar lecturers and scholars and their students. So far the archaeologists have found thousands of artefacts, many hundreds of which – in true student fashion – are related to alcohol.

i remember when I could be related to alcohol, too. There is plenty more detail over at this site for Oxford Archaeology which appears to be the firm working with the developers to clear the site. The discovery of a 13th century tile floor was an unexpected surprise. Not unlike my surprise when I learned hummus and yogurt could be an entire meal.

There is much more detail in The Independent. Seems like the monks, unlike me at the moment, had a rich and varied diet:

Mutton, lamb, pork, beef, chicken, geese and song birds were all on the menu, as were sea fish (cod, whiting, haddock, herring, eel, gurnard, conger, grey mullet, thornback ray, salmon and sea trout) and freshwater fish (especially roach and dace). The archaeological investigation has also revealed that they had a liking for oysters and mussels – and for hazelnuts and walnuts. For making pottage – a thick mainly vegetable stew – they used wheat, barley, oats and rye.

They also found “hundreds of medieval beer mugs” – hundreds. The monastery is described as being one of the seats of “super friars” with great academic and political influence which is one of the things, I suppose that lead Henry VIII to getting rid of them. The order reestablished itself in Oxford a bit over a century ago. Their kitchens were apparently preserved in good condition… for archaeology… but I am not sure if they established whether the monk’s ale was brewed within that facility. Medieval Oxford not only had a brewer’s guild starting in the 1400s but they also had a Brewers Street so who knows.

So, there you go. A little light learning for a Tuesday.  From a guy with stitches in his mouth. Did I mention the stitches? I did? Oh, good.

The Steelyard, Stillyard, Stylyard and Spelling

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Ah, the Hanseatic League. I posted about the Hanseatic League earlier this year, pointing out how it was likely the conduit for the first introduction of hopped beer into England – and, by implication, not the Dutch. I think that might be the case for no other reason that the Dutch were introduced to hopped beer by shipments from the Hanseatic League, the Renaissance corporate port towns of the Baltic which had that handy corporate navy with corporate cannon to enforce its idea of open trade.

Renaissance and Elizabethan brewing and drinking in England is particularly interesting as the period ties a lot of later things together…. or founds them… or whatever. For example, Hull was a 1600s brewing town that also was a Hanseatic depot. Hull ale was a contemporary of Northdown as being a premium drink in London in second half of the 1600s. It’s a coastal ale of the sort that governs until the canals reach deeper into the countryside releasing the odd sulfurous and maybe hoppier beers of Burton in Staffordshire upon the national and international market. Like the railways in the mid-1800s Ontario that gave rural Labatt and Carling the opportunity to explode out into the world, England’s canals of the early 1700s also placed brewing at scale nearer the grain fields, likely cutting out middlemen and displacing premium coastal brewing perhaps by undermining existing price. Theory. Working theory.

What was displaced was the model set by the Hanseatic League. Renaissance Hamburg was the greatest brewing center in the history of beer – 42% of the workforce was involved in brewing. The Hanseatic depot at King’s Lynn still stands, one of the branch locations of Hanseatic activity. London was the Kontor with its headquarters of import / export operation located just west of London Bridge on the north shore of the Thames where Cannon Street station now stands. One of the coolest thing is that there have basically been two owners of that site since perhaps 1250 as the vestigial Hanseatic League interests in Lübeck, Bremen and Hamburg sold it to the South-Eastern Railway Company in 1852. The presence of the Hanseatic League cannot be minimized at the critical point in the 1400s. Consider this passage from 1889’s bestseller The Hansa Towns by Helen Zimmern. It has a certain ripe Victorian style but does explain things like this:

Nor was London by any means their only depôt. It was the chief, but they also had factories in York, Hull, Bristol, Norwich, Ipswich, Yarmouth, Boston, and Lynn Regis. Some mention of them is found in Leland’s “Itinerary.” Under an invitation to the Hanseatics to trade with Scotland we find the name honoured in legend and song of William Wallace. In John Lydgate’s poems we also meet with our Hanseatics. In relating the festivities that took place in London city on the occasion of the triumphal entry of Henry VI, who had been crowned king at Paris some months previously, the poet narrates how there rode in procession the Mayor of London clad in red velvet, accompanied by his aldermen 196 and sheriffs dressed in scarlet and fur, followed by the burghers and guilds with their trade ensigns, and finally succeeded by a number of foreigners.

“And for to remember of other alyens,
Fyrst Jenenyes (Genoese) though they were strangers,
Florentynes and Venycyens,
And Easterlings, glad in her maneres,
Conveyed with sergeantes and other officeres,
Estatly horsed, after the maier riding,
Passed the subburbis to mete withe the kyng.”

A love of pomp and outward show was indeed a characteristic of the Hanseatics in England who thus perchance wished to impress upon the natives a sense of their wealth.

Henry IV was crowned the King of England in 1399. Hanseatic League ambassadors are in the procession when he enters London for the first time. They are somebodies. And they are powerful. They had a wee war with England from 1469-74… and won entrenching their right to trade. Hopped beer was not introduced to England by a few straggling sailors showing up at a few coastal towns. It was brought along – even imposed perhaps – by a massive commercial and military complex. Let’s look at some maps at how the Hansa QH has been described:

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The illustration to the left is a detail of the 1633 reprint of the 1561 Agas map. You can see the location of London’s Hanseatic Steelyard in blue to the west of London Bridge. Above way at the top of the text is a much finer detail of the site. Notice it is referred to as the “Stylyarde.” In the middle is a 1720s map of Elizabethan London. Notice the site is now referred to as the “Stillyard.” And to the right is a diagram of the site of the Steelyard itself in this case called the “Stahlhofes” – as it was in 1667 according to a late 1800s German atlas. So, we have four ways of spelling the name of the site. Which means that each needs to be run through the dark Satanic
research mills if we are going to have an idea of what’s going on. In a note to the discussion of John Stow‘s Survey of London (editions from 1598 to 1603), British History Online has an extended discussion in a footnote on the variously described Stillyard / Steelyard / Stilliard / Stelehouse / Steleyard which states that there was a trade presence from Cologne there as early as 1157. It also indicates that the German version Stahlhof that appears rather early on means a stall hall – a marketplace. Stow himself describes the site and operations at length in his narrative map of London including the following:

Next to this lane, on the east, is the Steelyard, as they term it, a place for merchants of Almaine, that used to bring hither as well wheat, rye, and other grain, as cables, ropes, masts, pitch, tar, flax, hemp, linen cloth, wainscots, wax, steel, and other profitable merchandises.

Interestingly, as Stow notes, past the intervening church, near the Steelyard in Haywharf Lane in the late 1500s there was a “great brew-house” operated in the past by Henry Campion and then by his son Abraham. Life in the district was… lively. In the poem by Isabella Whitney (1548–1573) “The Wyll and Testament of Isabella Whitney” we read the following:

At Stiliarde ſtore of Wines there bée,
your dulled mindes to glad:
And handſome men, that muſt not wed
except they leaue their trade.
They oft ſhal ſéeke for proper Gyrles,
and ſome perhaps ſhall fynde:
That neede compels, or lucre lures
to ſatiſfye their mind.

So, as we see on the image to the right, there is a wine house. I assumed it was a wholesale depot but it appears to be an Elizabethan retail party palace where lads and lassies mingle as they consider drink, lust and lucre. February 1582 government orders issued by the Privy Council to the Lord High Treasurer show the Stillyard being excused from certain taxation – right under another order allowing the export of 1,000 tuns of beer from London. Elizabethan brewing and trading at scale. You don’t hear about that often. Leaping ahead into the next century, Samuel Pepys, diarist and high government official, records a number of visits to the site in the 1660s. On Friday, 13 December 1661 he wrote:

…to the office about some special business, where Sir Williams both were, and from thence with them to the Steelyard, where my Lady Batten and others came to us, and there we drank and had musique and Captain Cox’s company, and he paid all, and so late back again home by coach, and so to bed.

On Monday 26 January 1662/63 he stated that he was “up and by water with Sir W. Batten to White Hall, drinking a glass of wormewood wine at the Stillyard… while on Sunday, 2 September 1666 he uses it as a location in his description of the Great Fire of London. Perhaps most gloriously, he gives us this image of a part of his day on Wednesday, 21 October 1663:

Thence, having my belly full, away on foot to my brother’s, all along Thames Streete, and my belly being full of small beer, I did all alone, for health’s sake, drink half a pint of Rhenish wine at the Still-yard, mixed with beer.

Rhenish mixed with beer. There’s a challenge to today’s sense of yum. Thankfully, he also drank Northdown and Hull so it was not all weird for Sammy. I am going to leave it there but to review, then, what we have seen is that the Hanseatic League was a massive trading partner which had a huge export trade in beer in the 1400s. It had a very significant governmental foothold in the middle of London which was recognized from at least 1399 to the 1660s as something to be reckoned with. The business presence stretched for 700 years from the 1150s to the 1850s. They ran a retail and entertainment hall of some sort exactly when beer is coming into England at the same time that they operate the largest brewing center in the world at Hamburg.

Suffice it to say, there is more to be found about the role of the Hanseatic League and the history of hopped beer in England. Does it support the rough overlapping sequence Haneastic hopped beer (say Hamburg and later Flemish 1300s to 1600s) => coastal hopped beer (like Hull and Northdown, say, late 1400s-1712) => canal based hopped beer (Burton after 1712)? Could be. Need to find out.

Was Hanseatic League Beer The First in England?

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Ah, the Hanseatic League. Remember the Championship game of 1922? That was great. Gordie won the Cup.

That chart above is from Britain and Poland-Lithuania: Contact and Comparison from the Middle Ages to 1795 published in 2008 and co-edited by every beer history nerd’s favorite professor, Dr. Richard W. Unger. Before I knew anything about Albany ale, I asked Professor Unger about Dutch brewing in the Hudson Valley. If I have a fanboy crush on anything about beer it’s his research on medieval to industrial Baltic trade. Because I have a brief if beefy Baltic past. While living in western Pomerania, I had beers with a guy who was on trans-Atlantic Polish factory fishing boats in the 1970s not to mention a man who was a colonel in the underground riding German train lines, slipping away from time to time to place a bomb or two. His drink nephew wagged a revolver in my face while we partied. The things you remember from time to time.

Anyway, enough about me. More about beer. Unger shows how the Hanseatic League of northern Germany and Poland was instrumental in moving hopped beer into western Europe in the 1300s. England is often said to receive hops from the Netherlands but the Netherlands receives them through trade with traders from the Hanseatic League. Early 1300s restrictions against hopped beer in the Netherlands were dropped by mid-century due to the popularity of the imported stuff. That table up there is from an article in Britain and Poland-Lithuania: Contact and Comparison from the Middle Ages to 1795 by Wendy M. Childs in an article called “England’s Contacts With Poland-Lithuania.” She is pointing out that the Polish city of Gdansk* had trading routes into England quite regularly from the 1370s including the good ship Elyn and her cargo above via Hull in 1401. Notice that the beer is not showing up from the Netherlands. It’s from Poland’s main Baltic port. Which potentially skips about maybe half a century of trade contracts. Is it possible that the first hopped beer in England was not via the nearby Netherlands** but from earlier, more easterly Hanseatic trade routes? Just speculation for sure but for me at this point the neatest idea might be that North Sea ports like Hull and Lynn might have been enjoying hopped beer a little further back than understood. And what does that mean for the brewers in those ports?

* Where, yes, I drank a lot of Gdanskie in late 1991.
**Where, oddly, I worked and drank in 1986.

The Hillars Of Golden Lane, Cripplesgate Without

hillarsUp there, that is a detail from the Agas map, a wood cut map of London from 1561. In the upper right you will see Golding Lane. If you were cleverer than I am you would have noticed that in the last couple of weeks I mentioned Golding Lane twice. In this post, I referred to a court case about the improper pulling down of a brewery in 1680. And in this post, I made mention of the Golden Lane Brewery of the early 1800s, a brewery set up as a joint stock company. It took me a few days to realize that Golding Lane was the same place as Golden Lane – as is Goldyng Lane and Gouldinge Lane. It’s still there but not much of the past remains. Its part of a district that was flattened by the Nazis in the Blitz. It’s not very long, running the few blocks from Old Street south to Beech Street now as it did in that map above 454 years ago, in the suburbs of Cripplesgate Without, the north part of an ancient ward of of the City of London. One thing has survived. The church. St-Giles-without-Cripplegate avoided being taken out by both the Nazi bombers and the Great Fire of 1666. My hero and early Canadian beer man Martyn Frobisher is buried there.

Golden Lane and the immediate vicinity seems to be inordinately beery. Or maybe just that its beeriness is well recorded. That’s the funny thing about records. Things recorded where the records survive gain as much importance as those breweries and brewing towns with a ripe habit of offering generous beer writer junkets. To be mentioned is to be important. Yet… there is something about the place worth considering. In Stow’s 1603 A Survay of London it notes that the Brewers Hall stood a few streets inside Cripplegate, one of the gates in London’s medieval wall. Stow states that the Company of Brewers was incorporated by Henry VI in 1438 but it was the brewers of London who built the gate in 1244.

I am not going to try to write about all the brewing connections to Golden Lane in one post. Let’s start with something fairly manageable. The brewery which was torn down in 1680 by a rather self-confident tenant. You will recall from that recent post that the case of Greene versus Cole – both at trial and appeal – provided a lot of information about the place including how William Cole came to be the owner, as successor to one John Hilliard who himself received it as son an heir from his father John Hilliard who died in 1651. The son himself only made it to 1658 at which time Cole received it under will of John the father. But it does not stop there. Mike Brown in his article “Some named brewhouses in early London” published in Brewery History issue 144 identified a bit more of the brewery’s history sets out a passage in a will probated in 1591:

To Robert Hyllyar my son for his life I give my messuage or brewhouse called the sign of the Flower de Luce lying in Gouldinge Lane, now in the tenure of Robert Allyson, brewer; and after his decease the remainder thereof to the issue of his body; for default, I will that the reversion thereof shall remain to the maintenance of the poor distressed people inhabiting within the freedom of the City of London in the said parish of St. Giles without Creplegate for ever, and the lease of the said messuage and brew-house shall from time to time be made by the good advice of the parson and Churchwardens of the same parish of St. Giles.

A more complete record of the will of John Hillar from 1591 can be found on line here. The brewery is said to be worth £6 annually. Richard the son of John was just 26 years old when he received the brewery in 1591. Which makes him a very likely candidate for being the father of John Hilliard who died in 1651. John (d. 1591), Richard (b.1565), John (d. 1651), John (d.1658) all owned the brewery on Golding Lane, which would be shown somewhere on that woodcut up there from 1561. Neato.

And it goes even further back that that as Brown in his article shows that in a will from 1407, a bequest was granted by Robert Gerthe to Agnes his wife to whome he left “a brew-house called ‘le Flourdelys’ in Goldynglane in the parish of S. Giles aforesaid for life.” Flower de Luce. Flourdelys. Fleur de Lys. A brewery just outside the wall of London for at least 273 years, torn down 335 years ago.