The earliest evidence I’ve collected so far of hops imported from the United States to Britain is exactly 196 years ago: May 1817, when the Liverpool Mercury newspaper carried a notice of the arrival into the city of a ship from New York, the Golconda, carrying 417 bales of cotton, 319 barrels of flour, 1,322 barrels of turpentine – and two bags of hops. This was just the start, when more came across the Atlantic a few months later, in November, when two ships arrived, the Pacific from New York and the Triton from Boston, with cargos including 49 bales of hops and 30 bags of hops respectively. An even larger consignment, 185 bales (a bale being 200 pounds), arrived the following month from Boston on board the ship Liverpool Packet.
You will sometimes see it asserted that hops were “introduced” to North America in the early 17th century by Dutch and English settlers. In fact, when Europeans arrived, there were already three native North American hop varieties growing across the continent, where they had been around for a million years, after migrating from Asia: Humulus lupulus var. neomexicanus, which as its name suggests, grows in the Rocky Mountains area, from the Mexico border to Saskatchewan; H lupulus var pubescens, which is found in the mid-western United States; and H lupulus var. lupuloides, which grows on the eastern seaboard from New Brunswick to the Mason-Dixon Line, and right across to the Dakotas and Manitoba.
“From the middle of the eighteenth century until the early nineteenth century, Massachusetts was the acknowledged leader in hop production in North America. Middlesex County in particular was famous for its hop yards…” - Tomlan, Tinged with Gold.
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