Marc Meltonville

Heritage Hop Variety Chosen to Recreate 16th Century Tudor Beer

Dr Susan Flavin’s studies in Experimental Archeology led her to this research of 16th Century beer.   The FoodCult Project  began when she was researching the 16th Century diet in Ireland pre the introduction of potatoes.  You can listen to a Podcast by Associate Prof in History Dr Susan Flavin about her unique take on studying history by exploring what we ate and drank during the 16th century.  The Podcast is easy to listen to and their diet in 16th Century included a lot of beer!

Tudor home brewWe know that historically beer has always been closely linked with the ordinary working person’s diet.  For generations brewing was mainly done in the home, it was a basic skill any housewife worth her salt required. On larger estates it is quite likely that brewing was done by specially appointed farm hands. Research into beers and ales in past centuries shows that beer was often drunk in copious quantities, allegedly a manual worker could be given up to 14 pints per day!  Beer continued to be drunk by farm workers in the first half of 1900’s on this Sussex farm. Joe Eyres, the hop drier and cowman,  told me that they drank beer daily; tea was a luxury reserved for Sundays.

16th century brewing

The aim of this project was to recreate a 16th century Tudor beer. What better way than by using , techniques and recipes found on historic records and various old household accounts.  And where better for this to take place than at the Wealden and Downland Museum,  one of my all time favourite places to visit.   

The Foodcult project has been a major collaboration of many people, from historians to archaeologists, all experts in their own individual and diverse fields.  Artisan brewing equipment  was made to replicate what the Tudors would have used

The food historian Marc Meltonville had the crucial role as brewer.

Marc Meltonville

Dr Peter DarbySelecting the right ingredients was essential. Tolhurst hop variety was chosen as closest to the original Flemish Red Bine. This Red Bine is believed to have been brought to England from Flanders at the end of 15th Century.  The Heritage Tolhurst hop variety was chosen by Dr Peter Darby for this experiment, as the best hop to replicate what was available for 16th century brewing.  Except for the National Collection, A Bushel of Hops is the only grower currently offering this Heritage Hop variety to home brewers.  There should be some available next season for anyone who wishes to brew their very own ancient beer.

The other vital ingredient was malt and here the ancient Bere barley was singled out. Bere Barley has been grown in Orkney for over 1000 years, it was probably introduced by the Vikings.  

The three magic ingredients, water, barley and hops.  Bere barely for the malt, Tolhurst hop variety was chosen, water and this historical brew was ready to go, finally after almost 3 years of droughts and a global pandemic which had all conspired to delay original plans! The brewing took place at   Tindalls Cottage  and like any good reenactment Tudor costumes and accurately crafted brewing equipments were used.  

On 15th September 2021 everything was in place.  A trial run to test equipment had been made in 2020 but in September 2021 it was the real deal. Film crew stationed then it was all systems go – brewing and filming were finally underway.

Wealden and Downland filming

To have been a tiny part of a tiny cog in this very special historical brewing adventure has been a privilege.  At present the resultant beer   is undergoing analysis and Isotope testing.  Meanwhile along with everyone else involved, I am eagerly awaiting the final results, just for now many questions still remain unanswered. So after Tolhurst hop variety was chosen, was this 16th Century beer a flop or was it fit for a Tudor king?


For further reading – Martyn Cornell of the Historic Brewery Society has written this excellent article.  Apparently Shakespeare who was born in 16th Century ‘was a fan of ale, but didn’t much like beer.’


hop growers A-Z

Hop Grower’s Alphabet

Our Hop Grower’s Alphabet is over on Instagram.  You might like to see it, if so click on the floating bottle top on this page it will take you directly there.  Alternately you can Google @abushelofhops on Instagram. The relevant posts started on 19th May and went through to 22nd June.  Below is the list of what was included in our Hop Growers A-Z.  It was certainly a fun thing to do and hopefully you will enjoy reading through it.

  • A is for Aerial and Alpha Acid. 
  • B is for bushel baskets, bines, besoms and beer.
  •  C is for cowl, crow’s nest and cooling floor
  • D is for dawn, drawing, Dr Peter Darby and Drying the hops naturally. Bit of a mixed bag!
  • E is EKG. East Kent Goldings are one of Britain’s most well known hop varieties and also Enhancing Habitats.
  • F is for Fuggles, fabric, fresh and fragrance.
  • G is for grower, gardens and goad used for stringing.
  • H is for Hops, Handwork and Home brewing.
  • J is for January and jam
  • K is for kerb and knapweed.
  • L is for Lifter Cloths. 
  • M is for male hop , microbreweries, micro pubs, malt and misty hop picking mornings.
  • N is for November, needle and niche.
  • I is for Inspiration, Instagram and Iron.
  • P is for pockets, poles, press and pokes.
  • Q is for quilt. 
  • R is for return customers, roundel and Rotobank.  
  • S is today’s alphabet letter, so many it’s hard to choose. Scuppett, stencils and swap. The others? a sett, shoots, stringing, strap, screw-pegs, and stilts.
  • T for today’s alphabet is for twiddling stick, trailer, and also twiddling, training and tying. T is for hop Toile fabric which featrues a hop twiddler in action.       
  • U is for unseeded, underground and unicorn.             V is for Varieties, Verandah and Vermin.
  • W is for Wim-Wom, Wellies and Wilderness.
  • X is for ‘X marks the spot’
  • Y is for Yellow Rattle, Yards and Yeast
  • Z the last letter of my hop grower’s alphabet and until the night before last had me flummoxed! Z is for Zenith, Zymotic and the onomatopoeia for sleep 💤 

A Journey from Brewing with Hops to Sewing with Hops

I recently attended a workshop with Amanda Hall of Monkey Buttons and I chose to make a ‘kangaroo’ bag.     It was a great opportunity to trial run some of my toile fabric.    I do like the teal green of this toile.   Thank you Amanda for a super day, although we had a power cut from 12.30 to 3pm, we still managed to achieve a lot of sewing once we could use the machines again.

toile kangaroo bag 2

Because I am passionate about hops but also a quilter,  I naturally began looking for hop themed fabrics as soon as I started quilting in 1999.   I especially  was looking out for a toile. When I did not find any that I liked, I started to play around doodling sketches of my own ideas.  The design process was so enjoyable that I ended up with a range of 7 fabrics  – the problem was how to get these drawings from the paper and printed onto fabric?    I was very lucky with generous advise from Janet Clare as to how to submit your designs to a fabric company.   Janet has her fabric available through Moda.   I was naturally attracted to my favourite brands of fabrics  and hoped to have one take up my designs but although I submitted them it was not to be.  Basically I was told that whilst they liked the story the fan base for the subject would be too small for their huge print runs of 3000yds per design.   However, now the designs were drawn up I knew it was something I truly believed in and there was no going back, I definitely did not want to throw the towel in at that point.   So far that was the easy fun bit – the designs had to be put into a suitable format for uploading for printing.

My biggest thank you has to go to Sylvie Heasman of Art on Fabric for making my fabric possible to use in the first place.

Research on the internet for companies who print fabrics to order revealed a whole new world I knew almost nothing of.   Then I happened on the profile of one of the resident designers for one company and read that she would also design on commission.   Sylvie Heasman of ‘Art on Fabric’ . It was the was the ray of hope I was looking for but it meant taking  what was a huge leap of faith,  I had to put my complete trust into someone who was then a total stranger.     However it was either do that or forever wonder ‘maybe, what if…..’   and that was not an option.     The risk had to be taken and Sylvie’s profile felt right, so I took a deep breath and emailed her.

Sylvie  kindly agreed to put my hops designs into the right digital format for uploading to the printers computer system.     She performed the ‘ta da abracadabra’ and viewing on line still has that ‘as if by magic’  feeling, I could not have done this and am eternally grateful to Sylvie for her patience and skill.  It is still a thrill to make something with the fabric I designed which has only been made possible by Sylvie’s skill.    I can honestly recommend to anyone who has a design idea in their head,  to contact Sylvie who will make it happen for you.   The fabric printers Woven Monkey have been excellent too, even with my limited IT skills their site is easy to use.  The variety of fabric types to choose from  and their colours are also a joy.

See my full range of hops inspired fabrics available in various colourways at Woven Monkey.

hop fabric