Hops A-Z: P is for Pliny The Elder

I know five things about Pliny the Elder.

1) Gaius Plinius Secundus, Pliny the Elder to his mates, wrote a twenty volume History of the German Wars which by all accounts wasn't exactly a barnstorming page turner. But he did write Naturalis Historia, an encyclopaedic work encompassing topics such as mathematics, geography and botany.

2) He didn't create a botanical name for hops. In the book, he refers to "Lupus salictarius" (meaning 'wolf of the willow', I think) which has been translated as hop, but the name Humulus Lupulus is (I believe) one conjured up by the 'father of modern taxonomy', Carl Linnaeus.

3) And it wasn't the first mention of hop usage in beer. In fact, unless I've missed something stunningly obvious, Pliny doesn't mention hops in relation to beer at all. Abbess Hildegarde of St. Ruprechtsberg, Germany, wrote about them in 1079. Or in 1067, depending on which source you consult. Which is pretty remarkable, given that she's said to have been born in 1098. But her work 'Physica, sive Subtilitatum' from 1151-1158(ish) makes reference to making beer without using hops and that spoilage in a drink can be inhibited by hop bitterness. But that's still drinks, not beer. And brewing without hops, not with them.

So perhaps the honour goes to Abbot Adalhardus of the Corvey/Corbie monastery, Germany, in 822. Ian Spencer Horney in A history of beer and brewing says that Adalhardus refers to a tithe given to the monastery on the collection of wild hops gathered for the brewing of beer. Still seems slim evidence, mind.

Then there's always Pepin II, whose charter in 768 mentioned the cultivation of hop gardens at the abbey of St Denis, Paris. Crop cultivation, for a purpose, but... not specifically for brewing.

4) It's a damn fine hoppy beer. Beer polymath Phil Lowry shared a bottle of Russian River Pliny The Elder with me last year and I can honestly say that it lived up to expectations.

5) Pliny rhymes with 'tiny' because Vinnie Cilurzo from the brewery says so. End of.

(and now I've noticed that Zythophile, the beer-blog equivalent of Protafloc, cleans up some of the clagging balderdash about Pliny and hops in this post. And in this one too)


  1. I think it rhymes with 'tiny' not 'tinny' - that's how Vinnie and everyone in California says it. The actual person PtE rhymes with tinny but not the beer...

    And it's a damn good beer (there's a bottle in my fridge right now)!!

  2. Yep, it rhymes with 'tiny', my bad. I seem to have lost a sentence somewhere about how Latin scholars insist that Pliny rhymes with tinny but I'm prepared to take Vinnie's word on it, although that would mean we should call him 'Vie-nee'...

  3. I've now changed the tinny/tiny line so that the article is AOK when fed through RSS, thanks to Mark for the subedit!