As Protestants celebrate the 500-year-anniversary of Martin Luther’s revolt against Catholicism, NPR tells us that beer drinkers might well raise a pint to the father of the Reformation, too:
“Every hip craft brewery today peddling expensive hoppy beers owes a debt of gratitude to Luther and his followers for promoting the use of hops as an act of rebellion against the Catholic Church. But why did Protestants decide to embrace this pretty flower, and what did it have to do with religious rebellion?
Therein foams a bitter pint of history.
In the 16th century, the Catholic Church had a stranglehold on beer production, since it held the monopoly on gruit — the mixture of herbs and botanicals (sweet gale, mug wort, yarrow, ground ivy, heather, rosemary, juniper berries, ginger, cinnamon) used to flavor and preserve beer. Hops, however, were not taxed. Considered undesirable weeds, they grew plentifully and vigorously — their invasive nature captured by their melodic Latin name, Humulus lupulus (which the music-loving Luther would have loved), which means ‘climbing wolf.’ “
John Foyston is Oregon's longest serving beer writer, and wrote a
weekly beer column for The Oregonian until just recently. His
work has appeared on CNN, and in Beer Connoisseur, Celebrator Beer
News, Oregon Beer Growler, Mix Magazine and other publications and
will occasionally appear on these pages, at least until Angelo and DJ
get tired of him too...He can be followed on Twitter at @beerherejohnny.