Sunday, 25 March 2012

The hop and its English varieties by John Percival (1901)

In my researches into hop history I've learnt that you can that you can find most things online if you look long enough. Except for "The Hop Farmer" by E J Lance (1838) that is.

The classic text on the history of English hop varieties is John Percival's article "The hop and its English varieties" published in The Journal Of The Royal Agricultural Society Of England Vol-62 (1901), p67-95. This article was harder to find than most. Google books only had snippets, no doubt due to them being an evil corporation. But fortunately for me the toiling proletariat and peasantry of India showed themselves to be closer to libertarian communism, and it's all available online here.

Unfortunately it's in some horrible clunky format that kept crashing my browser when I looked at the scanned pages. So I took the untidied text and pasted it into a new document where I could make some sense of it. Here's the text, if you're after the pictures you'll have to see how you get on with the Digital Library of India.


ALTHOUGH many excellent papers have appeared from time to time in the pages of the Journal upon the cultivation and management of the Hop, none have more than briefly referred to the structure or varieties of the plant. With the object of supplying this deficiency the present article has been written, and it is hoped that the illustrations which accompany it may be of permanent value as a record of the character of the varieties at present in cultivation in England.


Only two distinct species of hops are known. One of these, the Japanese hop (Humulus japonicus, Sieb. et Zucc.), belongs to China and Japan; the other, our ordinary hop (Humulus lupulus, L.), is a native wild plant distributed all over Europe.

The Japanese hop is of no value for brewing purposes, but is grown sometimes as an ornamental climber in gardens. The common hop is cultivated for its fruits, which are technically known as strobiles. A strobile somewhat resembles a fir-cone, and consists of a stem or axis (called the hop "strig" in Kent), with a number of short branches arranged alternately along its opposite sides, as in B, fig. 1, on page 68.

Upon each of these branches grow four leaf-like structures termed bracteoles (ab, fig. 1); which carry at their bases the "seeds" of the plant. In addition to these seed-bearing bracteoles are a series of similar-looking leaves which do not bear "seeds;" they grow in pairs on the main axis or "strig" of the hop, just beneath the short branches. The "seedless" leaves are termed stipular bracts (sj, fig. 1); these and the "seedy" bracteoles are erroneously but conveniently called the "petals" of the hop by growers. The two sorts of "petals" differ from each other in shape, and to some extent in colour also, the seedless "petals" being usually darker, and often tinged with a dirty green hue. In the poorer kinds of hop this disfigurement is most conspicuous, but in the better classes it is liable to appear on some soils, especially if the plants are heavily dunged or treated too liberally with nitrogenous manures.

Upon the "seed" and seed-bearing "petals" and also to a slight extent on the seedless "petals" of the best hops, are seen a number of very small round particles, rich amber-yellow in colour. These are the lupulin glands—the so-called "condition" —the character and amount of which are the chief factors determining the brewing value of the hop. Each gland is hollow (fig. 2), and contains within it a mixture of oil and resinous material, upon which depend the peculiar aroma and flavour of the hop. To the resinous substances of the glands is also due the preserving power or keeping quality which the hop exercises when added to beer.

During the growth of the hop the lupulin glands increase in size, and, as the hop ripens, the colour of the oily contents changes from a transparent clear amber-yellow to an opaque citron or lemon-yellow tint, the perfectly ripe glands appearing like fine round particles of sulphur,

Characteristics of a Good Hop.

The occurrence of this change is the best indication of the ripeness of a hop. Usually for want of labour, oast-room, and other matters, picking is commenced before the hops are ripe, but whenever possible they should be allowed to hang until a few opaque glands are seen distributed here and there among the transparent ones on the "petals:" these can be readily examined with a small magnifying glass.
A good hop, from both the grower's and the brewer's point of view, should have, as far as possible, the following characters :—

(a) The yield should be large, and the hops should be capable of hanging on the plant without damage for some time, so as to allow a considerable area to be picked and managed with a moderate number of hands. The time which a hop will remain in good condition without "going off" depends upon the manuring, season, and locality to some extent, but there are constitutional differences among hops in respect of this quality. Fuggle's hops, for example, usually hang well, while the thinner-petalled varieties are easily discoloured and fall in pieces when left a few days in the picking season.

(b) The plants should be hardy and highly resistant to the attacks of fungi and aphides.
Unfortunately, delicacy and weakness are almost invariably met with among hops of the best quality.

(c) The brewer aims at high lupulin-content, for the chief use of the hops to him depends upon the amount of resins present in them. Moreover, for the process of
dry-hopping, a pleasant aroma is essential.

So far as the keeping quality of the beer is concerned, and also to a large extent the peculiar bitterness imparted to the liquor by the hop, a sample of good resin-content, with only a passable or even poor aroma, is as useful as one of fine aroma, or the hops of the Weald or less favoured districts would never be grown.

However, to impart the most delicate and attractive flavour to beer, only hops of the best quality can be employed. The size of the resin-glands, their weight, and the number on each "petal" are generally greatest among hops of poor aroma; but their weight, compared with the rest of the hop, is often higher in the best quality hops than in those of poor aroma and flavour.

In a good brewer's hop the petals should be well covered at the base with lupulin, and the "strig," "petals," and "seeds" should weigh as little as possible.

(d) Hops with the most delicate aroma possess this, smooth pale-golden "petals," the bracteoles being well rounded at the tip, and the stipular bracts similar in colour
and texture and broadly oval in shape (3 and 4, fig. 3).

Those of poor aroma have "petals" which are generally rough, thick, and puckered. The bracteoles are more pointed, as in 1 and 2, fig. 3, the stipular bracts being narrow and often a darker green tint than the bracteoles, so that the colour of the hop is not uniform all over, and cannot be made so even by the strongest application of sulphur on the kiln. The worst varieties have the small stipular bracts at the
base of the strobile twisted.

Some varieties of hops have exceptionally pale, straw-coloured "petals," which are very thin; such are always deficient in resin-glands, but the aroma is generally good.


The seedlings of few plants vary so-much as those of the hop, and this in spite of the fact that it is a species which has not been subject to hybridisation. From seeds of the best Whitebine variety originate plants having red, dark-green, or pale-green bines, either rough or smooth, and scarcely two plants in the same batch of seedlings are alike in earliness, lupulin-content, or shape of the hop.

This natural variability was well known to the early growers, and many of them mention the futility of raising a garden of hops from seeds.

Walter Blith, in his "English Improver" (1653 edition), says that in ordinary hop gardens some plants ripen much earlier than others, and these should be looked
for and picked separately. Afterwards growers selected and planted out these early plants in separate parts of the gardens, so as to avoid irregular picking.

In the "Whole Art of Husbandry" (1712 edition), Mortimer mentions four varieties, namely:—(1) the Wild Garlick Hop; (2) the Long Square Garlick Hop; (3) the Long White, and (4) the Oval Hop. In the same treatise a "Kentish Gentleman" adds an "Account of Hops" and mentions three sorts—two Whitebine varieties, one tender and a little earlier than the other, and a hardy Greybine variety bearing long, square, late hops.

In the eighteenth century several varieties were grown, mainly distinguished by local names, as well as the "Flemish hop," a Red-bined variety, bearing small, close-set hops of a greenish colour. The latter kind always carried a crop even in a blighted season, but its quality was poor.

During the nineteenth century several new varieties were introduced. Below I have attempted to describe the chief characters of the hops most generally grown in this country at the beginning of the twentieth century. As far as possible, I have endeavoured to state what is known about their origin, in the hope that it may
be of interest to growers and at the same time be of service as a record that may save future workers much trouble.

Although the amount of resin or lupulin and the flavour which the hop possesses vary with the season and soil very considerably, the shape of the "petals," their thickness and character of the veins upon them, are very constant, as is also the compactness of the hop, as measured by the number of short branches per inch of "strig" In the descriptions, I have used the term "density" to express compactness of the hop, the figures 5, 6, 7, or 8 after the word denoting the number of short branches to which the "petals" are attached on each three-quarters of an inch length of "strig" (See B, Fig. 1.)

The "density" of a hop, taken in conjunction with the shape of its bracts, is the best means for distinguishing and classifying the different varieties.


Hobbs' Early (density=6).—A long, narrow, pointed hop, nearly allied in botanical characters to the Prolific, but with a green bine, It is rather smaller than the Prolific hop, somewhat earlier in ripening and of slightly better quality, though it belongs to the thick-petalled, coarse varieties.

Its origin I have not been able to determine with certainty, (Fig. 4, page 72.)

Prolific (density about 6).—One of the largest hops grown, but of poor quality, coarse in petal, pointed, square in section and poor in flavour. The colour of the hop inclines to an orange tint when ripe, with dirty green twisted bracts at its base. The bine is red and short, and for its size bears a very large crop.
It is only grown in districts unsuited to the better kinds of hop, and was raised in 1852 from a plant selected from a garden of Old Jones' hops by Mr. Thomas Guest of Ohill Mill Farm, Brenchley, in Kent. (Letter from Mr. Guest's son, November 8, 1899.) (Fig. 5, page 73.)

Meopham (density=5).—A large, coarse, loosely constructed hop, of poor flavour, with little lupulin. The bine is red, and, like the Prolific, it is only grown as an early
variety in the poorest districts.

Henham's Jones’ Hop (density =7). —Frequently the coarse Meopham hops are known by this name in certain districts. The true Henham's Jones' variety is, however, a much better kind, of pretty golden colour, oval, of medium size and with thin petals. (See fig. 6, page 74,) The lupulin content is somewhat low, but the flavour is good. The bine is red and comparatively thin. It was raised by Mr. Iden Henham of East Peckham, Kent. (Letters from Mr. B. A. White, Paddock Wood, and others)

Bramling (density=7).—A reddish-bined early hop of good quality, and grown in all the best hop districts. The hops are of medium size, firm, compact, and round in section, with a well-closed tip. (See fig. 7, page 75.)

It was selected by a farm bailiff named Smith, on Mr. Muggrave Hilton's farm at Bramling, a hamlet in the parish of Ickham, near Canterbury. It was originally named Early Bramling hop, and first became known and extensively planted about 1865. (Letters from Mr. W. H. Hammond,Milton Chapel, Canterbury, and Mr. J. D. Masted, Little-bourne, Dover.)

The White's Early (density =7).—In quality, this is one of the best, if not the best, early hop grown. Of medium size, rather thin in petal, and of a beautiful pale-golden colour and excellent flavour. It closely resembles the Canterbury Whitebine variety, but is peculiar in having the petals loose and open at the tip. The bine is pale green; the plants are delicate and rarely give a satisfactory crop. This variety was introduced by Mr. George White of Grove House, Hunton, near Maidstone, about the year 1852.
It was raised from a plant which had been noticed to grow very early hops for two or three successive years in an old Canterbury Whitebine garden. (Letter from Mr. G. White, November 1899.)

Amos's Early Bird (density about 8).—A densely constructed hop, closely allied to the Bramling in shape and colour, but usually earlier than this variety, It is of good quality, and takes high rank among the best early varieties for cultivation in good districts. (Fig. 9, page 77.) It was discovered by Mr. Alfred Amos, Spring Grove, Wye, Kent, in 1887, in his garden of Bramling hops. (Letter from Mr. Alfred Amos, November 1889.)

Bennett's Early Seedling (density =6).—A medium-sized oval hop, rich in lupulin, with a moderate flavour. It is similar in the shape of its petals to the good Whitebine types, though belonging in colour to the poorer class of early hops. It is considered by
the raiser as especially suited for growth on stiff land. (Fig. 10, page 78.)

From a botanical point of view it occupies an isolated position, without near allies, and is one of the two English hops known with certainty to have arisen from seed—the other being Fuggle's variety. The original plant was raised from seed, sown
in 1880, by Mr. H. Bennett of Borough Green, near Sevenoaks. (Letter from Mr. Bennett, September 1898.)


Rodmersham or Mercer's Hop (density 7 1/2 to 8).—A Whitebine variety much resembling the Canterbury Whitebine hop, but earlier than this, though not so early as the Bramling. The plant is a good cropper and the hop rich in lupulin, but the aroma in the specimens I have examined is not quite so good as in the best hops, and there is a tendency for the lower petals to be greenish. (Fig. 113 page 80.)

This hop was selected by Mr. Robert Mercer of Rodmersham House, Sittingbourne, Kent, about 1880, from a garden of hops at West Malling, near Maidstone, reputed
to be the Golding variety, and at least 150 years old. The original plant for several successive years was noticed by Mr. Mercer to come into hop earlier than the rest of the garden, (Letters from Mr.Mercer and Mr. J. F. Honeyball, New Gardens,
Teynham, 1900,)

Cobb's Hop (density=7).—A medium-sized hop, with thin pale-yellow petals; good in flavour, but somewhat poor in lupulin. The plant is a tall-growing Whitebine
variety; earlier in ripening than the Canterbury Whitebine, but not so early
as the Bramling. (Fig. 12, page 81).

It was introduced about 1881 by Mr. John Cobb of Sheldwich, near Faversham, the original plant being selected from one of Mr. Cobb's Canterbury Whitebine gardens by Mr. James West, hop factor. (Letter from Mr. West's son and Mr. T Butcher, Faversham, who was present when the selection was made.)

Canterbury Whitebine; Farnham Whitebine; Mathon Whitebine (density about 7) —these hops, grown originally at Canterbury, Kent (fig. 13, page 82), Farnham in Surrey, and the parish of Mathon in Worcestershire (fig. 14, page 83)
respectively, are old varieties, so closely related in botanical characters that they cannot be distinguished from each other with certainty, and are, no doubt, one and the same variety. They all rank as hops of the very best class on account of the excellence of their flavour and their relatively high lupulin-content. Owing to their delicate constitution they can only be grown in the most favoured climates and soils.

The Farnham hop is slightly smaller and not quite so round in section as the Canterbury variety, and usually the petals are closer in their arrangement on the strig of the hop. The colour is also a shade paler and more uniform on both kinds of petals.
All the three varieties have pale-green bines, usually termed "Whitebines."

Cooper's White (density = 6 3/4 to 7).—A Worcestershire variety, extremely like the Mathon and Canterbury hops, and no doubt selected from the former. It is of good colour, high lupulin-content, but not quite such a good flavour as the best Whitebines. The plant is slightly earlier and more delicate than the Mathon hop, and its lateral branches usually not so long.

The petals are generally larger than those of the Mathon variety. (Fig. 15, page 84.)

Fuggle's Hop (density = 7).—This variety belongs to the class of large hops, though, in point of size, it is considerably smaller than the Prolific and Meopham varieties. When fully ripe the hops are square in section and pointed, very rich in lupulin, but somewhat coarse-flavoured and lacking the uniformly golden tint of the best Whitebines. The petals are thick and strong, the basal ones being generally of a darkish-green colour. (Fig. 16, page 85.)

The plant is a heavy cropper, thoroughly hardy, and well adapted for growth in the stiff damp land of the Weald and similar districts, where the Whitebines die out
rapidly. The bine is a sap-green colour. The original plant was a casual seedling which appeared in the flower-garden of Mr.George Stace of Horsmonden, Kent. The seed from which the plant arose was shaken out along with crumbs from the hop-picking dinner basket used by Mrs. Stace, the seedling being noticed about the year 1861.

The sets were afterwards introduced to the public by Mr. Richard Fuggle of Brenchley, about the year 1875. (Letters from Mr. John Larkin, Horsmonden, Mr. W. J. Noakes, Goudhurst, and others.)

Old Jones's Hop (density = 7 to 8).—A medium-sized oval hop of good colour and flavour, and fairly rich in lupulin. It is peculiar in having a somewhat narrow, pointed stipular bract and a round-tipped bracteole —a combination of characters rarely
met with in English varieties of hop. The plant has short green bines. (Fig. 17, page 86.)

The origin of the variety I have not been able to determine, but it was grown and bore the name Jones' Hop as far back as 1798.

The Golding Hop.—To a beginner desirous of obtaining definite ideas on the nature of hops, nothing is so puzzling or so annoying as the use of the term "Golding." The inquirer soon learns that it is sometimes employed to denote a particular variety, which every grower in the best districts says, and probably imagines, that he grows; and on other occasions, perhaps more especially in districts suited only to the coarser varieties, the term is extended to include a somewhat heterogeneous mixture of kinds possessing few discoverable characters in, common except that they are hops.

However, at present among hop merchants and factors it is most customary to apply the term " Goldings " to the best class of hops, such as the Canterbury and Farnham Whitebines, the Bramling and Mathon hops, with Cobb's and the Rodmersham
varieties, and stretched occasionally to include others of less repute.

We do not indeed hear of "Prolific" Golding, but the combination Fuggle's Golding and similar incongruous names are not unknown. In reality and strict honesty, the term should be applied to one special kind of hop only, the history of which is clear enough. The first precise record of this variety is made by William Marshall in his "Rural Economy of the Southern Counties" (1798). Marshall spent the months of August, September, and October 1790 at Maidstone and made a study of the hop-growing industry in West Kent. The year following (1791) he was at Farnham for a similar purpose, and at Canterbury in 1795. In West Kent he states that, among others, the chief kinds of hops grown were:—
(1) The Canterbury hop, a Whitebine variety of medium size, and
(2) The Golding hop, which had recently become famous. He says: "It is, I understand, a sub-variety of the Canterbury which was raised by a man still living (1790), Mr. Golding of the Mailing quarter of the district."

At Canterbury in 1795 the good qualities of the Golding hop were either unknown or not duly appreciated, for he mentions that only two varieties were grown in that district — namely, the Canterbury Whitebine and the Flemish Redbine hop.

It is thus clear that, although derived from the Canterbury Whitebine, the Golding hop was a specially-selected sort, which had distinct characters of its own. John Banister, an excellent practical farmer, of Horton Kirby, in Kent, in his "Synopsis of Husbandry" (1799) describes the Canterbury, Farnham, and Golding hops as distinct
varieties. The Rev. Luke Booker, in his poem "The Hop-Garden" (1799), mentions the "Golding-bine" as "far-famed" and, together with the Mathon hop, recommends it to the Worcestershire growers.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century it had been distributed to all parts of the country where good hops were grown. From the descriptions of later growers—namely, the writer of the article on hops in Baxter's "Library of Agriculture" (1846),
Samuel Rutley, a Kent and Sussex hop-grower (1848), and J.H. Paine of Farnham (1856) — we find that the Golding hop was
(1) a larger hop than the Canterbury Whitebine varieties, with
(2) a bine more speckled with red, of less luxuriant
growth, on which
(3) the hops hang more singly than is the case with the Canterbury hop. All these writers agree on the above characters; but the Farnham grower thought
it not quite so finely flavoured as the Farnham or Canterbury hop, while Mr. Rutley considered it richer in condition than these.

It is thus seen that as late as the middle of last century the term "Golding" was kept to denote a special and distinct kind of hop, and it was not until much later that the practice began of adding the term to other varieties of less value with a view to
increase the probability of their sale, and to call the CanterburyWhitebine a Golding.

The large, less-clustered hop and speckled shorter bine are sufficient to distinguish the true Golding from the Canterbury Whitebine proper, and many gardens known by the latter name are true Golding hops.


The Grape Hop (density = 6 3/4 to 7).— The term "Grape hop" is applied to several distinct varieties, but the kind commonly known by this name, and to which it is perhaps best restricted, is a late variety with a sap-green bine. On account of the
shortness of the branches on which the hops grow on the laterals, they appear crowded together, somewhat like a bunch of grapes.

The hops are square in section, somewhat narrow in proportion to their length, and pointed. The petals are not so smooth as those of the best varieties, but the colour
and flavour when properly grown without excess of nitrogenous manure, are good,
and among the Grape varieties are found the best quality late hops. (Fig. 18, page 90.)

Mayfield Grape. Worcester and Hereford (density =6 to 6 1/2). —This is a large, pointed hop of good colour and fair flavour. It is much less coarse than the hop sometimes met with in Kent under this name. It has botanical affinities with Fuggle's hop but is later, thinner in petal, and not such an abundant cropper as the latter. (Fig. 19, page 91.)

Bates's Brewer (density = 7 1/2 to 8).— A compact, very distinct hop, round in section, well closed at the tip, firm and extremely regular in the arrangement of its
petals. In shape it is not unlike the Bramling hop, and is like the latter also in the strength and form of its petals. The strig is thickish, the lupulin-content high, but the
flavour is moderate only, and the colour of the hop is uneven, the stipular bracts being darker than the bracteoles. The plants have dark-green bines and bear a moderate crop. (Fig. 20, page 92.)

This hop was selected by Mr. Bates of Brenchley, about 1879 or 1880, from a garden in the Sevenoaks Weald district. The six sets yielded by the original plant were bought for a bottle of whisky each, the old plant, after the cuttings were removed, being burnt on the spot. (Letter from Mr. Bates' son to Mr, George Neve, Sissinghurst, November 1899.)

Buss's Hop (density=8 or 9).—A dense, small hop, with thin, very pale, smooth petals. It is of good flavour but poor in lupulin. The plants have red bines, are very hardy, and rarely suffer from attacks of vermin. (Fig. 21, page 93.)

The name is associated with Mr. B. Buss of Elphicks, Horsmonden, Kent, who tells me that some of his neighbours gave the name of "Buss's Late Golding" to the hop, which he obtained originally from a friend at Lyminge, in Kent, about 1869. Hops known as "Wildings" in many districts are identical with this variety.

Colgate's Hop (density = 7 to 8).—A long, narrow hop, square in section, and very late in ripening. It varies very much in size according to the soil and season. The petals are thin and pale in colour, and the hops, which grow in dense clusters, are inclined to be loose and open at the tip. They are not particularly rich in lupulin and have a disagreeable aroma. (Fig. 22, page 94.)

The slender branches on which the hops are borne are very rough, and the serrations of the leaves are deeper and more pointed than in any other English variety. The
plant has a long green bine, which bears a very heavy crop. It is very hardy, and succeeds best on stiff land, but will grow on almost all soils.

This variety was introduced by Mr. David Colgate, of Chevening, Kent, about 1805, the original plant being discovered in a hedge.

In conclusion it is necessary to point out that the estimates of the quality of the different varieties of hops described are based chiefly upon a study of their aroma, resin-content, and natural colour, and have been in no way influenced by the subsequent artificial treatment which the hops receive after picking.
The aroma can, of course, only be estimated by the sense of smell. In addition to my own estimate of this character in the different hops as met with in the gardens, I have
taken into consideration the opinions and judgments of many of the best growers in this country.

In regard to what may be considered the most important feature of the hop —namely, its resin-content —I have been guided in part by the few published chemical analyses of the total resins present, but more especially by my own microscopic examination of the relative numbers of lupulin-glands upon the bracts of the different varieties and their weight after mechanical separation from the bracts.

On account of the methods of sale and want of knowledge on the part of brewers, the price which a sample of hops will fetch in the English market is not necessarily a measure of its real intrinsic brewing value. The part played by the hop in the brewing process is indeed a many-sided one, and the assessment of one or two of its characters is not likely to be an accurate guide to its value. It is, however, time that the brewer
and hop-grower should make greater efforts to investigate and learn the essential nature of the commodity with which they deal, so as to bring about the sale of the hop
according to its real merit.


Wye, Kent.


  1. Have you heard that this might be the last harvest for English fuggels? very sad.