« PreviousContinue »
ART. IX.-1. A Perfite Platforme of a Hoppe Garden. By
REYNOLDE Scor. 1574, 1576, 1578. 2. A Declaration and Protestation against the Illegal, Detestable,
Oft-condemned New Tax and Extortion of Excise in general ; And for Hops (a native uncertain Commodity) in particular.
By WILLIAM PRYNNE, of Swainswick, Esqre 1654. 3. The Riches of a Hop-garden explained. By RICHARD
BRADLEY, Professor of Botany in the University of Cam
bridge. 1729. 4. The Hop Farmer. By E. J. LANCE. 1838. 5. Evidence before the Select Committee on the Hop Duties.
1857. 6. Plain Facts as to the Excise Duty on Hops. By GEORGE
P. Bacon, Honorary Secretary of the Hop-Excise-Duty
Repeal Association. 1860. 7. Report by Mr. Bonar, H. M. Secretary of Legation at
Munich, on the Manufacture, Consumption, and Commerce of
Beer in Bavaria. Munich: 1860. 8. Debate on 5th March, 1861, On the Motion for the Repeal of
the Hop Duties. Published by the Central Hop-Duty Repeal Association. 1861. IELDING, in his ‘Don Quixote in England,' makes Sancho
Panza say, 'I am so fond of the English roast beef and strong beer, that I don't intend ever to set my foot in Spain • again, if I can help it.'_ A most improbable sentiment for a native of wine-drinking La Mancha ever to have expressed. Had the original Sancho visited one of our inns, he would have made wry faces over the host's ale, still more over his beer, whether flavoured with the ground ivy or fern leaves of early days, or with the hop which was then rapidly superseding them. Could the liquor, however, have been in accordance with modern notions of excellence, the honest squire would, in all probability, have pronounced it as execrable as the balsam of Fierabras. And no wonder, inasmuch as a liking for beer, especially for highly-hopped beer, is in most men the result of habit.
It has taken centuries to form and develope our present national taste, and its origin is perhaps due to necessity rather than to choice. According to some accounts, at least, a bitter was originally admitted into the cask, not to gratify the palate, but to preserve the ale by checking fermentation. Be this as it may, hops, when first introduced into England in the fifteenth
century, were by no means relished. Not only were they considered unpalatable, but they were conceived to dry up the body, and to engender melancholy. Henry VI. is said, on the authority of a German writer, to have prohibited their cultivation by his subjects. Certain it is that bluff King Hal would have none of the pernicious weed,' and imperatively forbade his brewer to put hops in the royal beer. Civic dignitaries, from time immemorial studious of good living, petitioned Parliament against the use of hops, in regard they would spoyl the • taste of drinke, and endanger the people.' This was in 1528; but taste and doctors' opinions are alike capricious. By 1552 a revulsion of feeling had evidently taken place. In that year we find an Act extending certain privileges to such lands as were
set with saffron or hops.' Twenty years later a Bill was brought into Parliament which had for its object directly to promote and encourage planting and setting.' Xbout the same time Bacon wrote, “ The planting of hop-yards is profitable for
the planters, and consequently for the kingdom. The consumers' interest before long became the care of the Legislature. In 1580 a Bill was introduced against false packing;' and in the first year of James I. an Act was passed for avoiding of
deceit in selling, buying, or spending of corrupt and unwholesome hops.' More unmistakeable evidence that hops had, in the words of Walter Blith, become a national commodity,' is afforded by “An Ordinance of the Lords and Commons • assembled in Parliament, dated 8th July, 1644,' requiring the planter to pay an excise duty of 6d. for every value of 20s. of
hopps, and so proportionably for a greater or lesser value.' The Lord Protector and his Council, by an Order made in 1653, imposed a duty of 2s. per cwt. on English, and 58. per cwt. on foreign hops. Cromwell's Excise Act, four years afterwards, confirmed and continued this excise, and raised the customs duty to 10s. per cwt. The Restoration relieved home grown hops from taxation ; but the exigencies of war again brought them under the exciseman in the reign of Queen Anne. From 1711 down to the present day no other record than the statute-book is needed to attest the growing appreciation in which hops were held by the British public. Suffice it to say that the use of the wicked weed,' at first prohibited, then tolerated, then encouraged, came in the last century to be prescribed by the Legislature, and brewers were forbidden, under heavy penalties, from employing even such innocent bitters as quassia or gentian, not simply, as might be imagined, for the protection of the revenue, but for the sake of the health and comfort of the people.
The progress of the national taste for hops and its causes are well traced by Reynolde Scot, in a passage to be found in the later editions of the · Perfite Platforme':
"Whereas,' he says, “you cannot make above eyght or nyne gallons of indifferent Ale out of one bushel of Mault, you may draw XVIII or XX gallons of very good Beere; neyther is the Hoppe more profitable to enlarge the quantitie of your drinke, than necessary to prolong the Continuaunce thereof. For if your Ale may endure a fortnight, your Beere through the benefite of the Hoppe shall continue a moneth, And what Grace it yeeldeth to the taste all men may judge, that have Sense in their Mouths, And if the Controversie be betwixt Beere and Ale, which of them two shall have ye Place of Preheminence : it sufficeth for the Glorie and Commendation of the Beere, that here in our owne Countrie Ale giveth place unto it, and that most part of our Countrymen dve abhorre and abandon Ale, as a lothsome drinke, whereas in other Nations Beere is of great Estimation, and of Straungers entertayned as their most ehoyce and delicate Drinke. Finally, that Ale which is most delicate, and of best account borroweth the Hoppe, as without the which it wanteth his chiefe Grace and best Verdure.'
We find that at this time (1576) 2} lbs. of hops were considered the maximum quantity to be brewed with a quarter of malt; or, according to a writer in 1616, 1 lb. of hops was held amply sufficient to a barrel. Since that date the taste for well-hopped beer has progressed, till at the present day it has culminated in the popularity of that, according to Mr. Gladstone, incomparable article,' pale ale, brewed with from 5lbs. to 8 lbs. of hops to the barrel, which has usurped not only the place, but the name of the original Saxon liquor made from malt alone. The old distich,
"Hops, Reformation, Bays and Beer,
Came into England all in one year,' or the variation thereof,
“ Turkies, carp, hoppes, pickerell and beer,
Came into England all in one year,' marks the period when the first English hop yards were formed. The cultivation appears to have been originally established in Kent.
At Bourne, near Canterbury, there is a plot of ground which is known to have been a plantation in the first year of Elizabeth. The plant was introduced from Flanders; and the * trade of the Flemming,' i. e. his method of culture, and his · Ostes at Poppering' were held out asó a profytable patterne and • a necessarie instruction for as many as shall have to doe therein,' by the author of the Perfite Platforme,'
When this little work was published, the capability of our soil and climate for producing hops was still much doubted, and our supplies were in great measure drawn from the Low Countries. Scot writes not only to explain the cultivation, but to recommend its extension, and somewhat indignantly complains of the Fleming as dazeling us with the discommen*dation of our soyle, obscuring and falsifying the order of this • mysterie, and sending us into Flanders as farre as Poppering "for that which we may find at home in our own backsides. Whether owing to the information diffused by Scot's writings, or to other causes, hop growing was pursued with such success, that eighty years later Walter Blith, in his · Improver Im• proved,' declared of the English produce :
It is usually a very good commodity, and many times extraordinary ; and our nation may ascribe it unto itself, to raise the best Hops of any other nation.'
Kent and the eastern portion of Sussex became, and, as is well known, continue to be, the chief seats of the cultivation of hops. Next to these in importance rank Worcestershire, Herefordshire, and the district about Farnham, which, from the excellence of its produce, was termed by Bradley in the beginning of last century the first capital town for hops in Britain. Colonies are found in different parts of England, some, known as the North Clay districts,' in the high latitudes of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Nottinghamshire ; others dotted about the midland and southern counties, from Suffolk in the east to Cornwall in the south-west. The several varieties of hops which careful and systematic culture now produces in England differ as widely in price and in quality as different growths of wine. The Worcestershire red-bine is said to bear the closest resemblance to the old Flemish hop; this latter Bradley, in 1729, describes as small, close in texture, with a red bine and dark-green flower, resembling the indigenous British hop that grows wild in our own hedges.
Any one wishing to inspect the hop districts for himself, cannot do better than go by the South-Eastern Railway from London to Tunbridge. He may then continue his journey along either branch of the fork into which the trunk line there divides, or explore any of the roads or lanes that diverge from them, and he will find hop grounds and oast-houses to his heart's content. If it be winter time, he will only see sheaves and stacks of poles cumbering the bare earth. If it be summer, he will see the infant bine struggling to climb the poles,- an attempt in which it is materially aided and guided by the hands of the tyers. In a favourable season the growth is so rapid that
the process may almost be said to be discernible by the eye. Indeed, in one parish, on the borders of Kent and Sussex, it is averred that on a particular Sunday, when the rector's sermon was protracted beyond the usual length, the bine in a hop garden adjoining the church was observed to have grown an inch during the morning service. The traveller should, however, defer his visit till autumn. He will then behold a spectacle more glorious than the vineyards of Burgundy or of the Rhine. Every pole has become a thyrsus wreathed with graceful foliage. The bine has climbed the poles, and waves its clustering bells from their summits in token of victory. Round the poles, from their base upwards, light shoots, laden with flowers, droop sleepily in the noontide heat, or dance in the evening air. Nor is the sight the only sense that is gratified. Aromatic odours, soothing as opium, are wafted abroad by the breeze, till it seems overcome by their narcotic influence, and dies away, leaving an atmosphere impregnated with fragrant particles, as in the fabled land, • Where round and round the spicy downs the yellow lotus-dust
is blown.' Let the stranger, however, if a farmer, beware of yielding to the spell. The beauty of the hop garden is but too commonly a Lamia who allures men by every charm that can intoxicate the senses, but when embraced proves a foul monster, that drains the life-blood of the confiding victim. True it is, that a garden sometimes yields a ton an acre; true it is that the produce may sell for 101., or more, a cwt., and that three times within twenty years hops have reached the price of 201. or 221., a cwt. But great gains imply great risks. The crop is one of marvellous uncertainty. The hop might appropriately stand in the language of flowers as the symbol of fickleness. It is enough to point out that in 1852, 46,000 acres yielded five times as large a crop as 54,000 acres in 1854, and that again in 1859, 45,000 acres yielded six times as much as the same acres in 1860. So sensitive is the plant, that every variation of temperature, every rise or fall of the barometer, every change of the wind, affects its growth, and exalts the farmer's hopes or darkens his prospects. Enemies innumerable, both in the animal and in the vegetable world, threaten the quantity, or endanger the quality, of the produce. Blight, mould, mildew, honeydew, fireblast, feas, Aies, lice, moths, spiders, caterpillars, form but a portion of the appalling list furnished by Mr. Lance. The amount to be staked against such odds is far in excess of that ventured in any other branch of farming ;