7. Tasty together: the coexistence of hops and humans

Hop was well-known medicinal plant and delicacy long before it was used for beer production. Domestication took place through the collection of wild varieties and unsystematic cultivation around settlements to today’s hop gardens. However, the first documented hop growing is not in Žatec, but in south Moravia, at the end of the 1st millennium AD.

GPS: N 50°19.543´,E 013°37.827´show on map

7. Tasty together: the coexistence of hops and humans

Most of the close links between human and domesticated plant started by accident, or often by complicated coincidence. One of the main reasons for the domestication of plant species is often the healing or narcotic/soothing effects of the content substances. Hops include both: it works as an antiseptic, has anti-cancer effects, and some of its substances have relatively strong soothing effects (it is not coincidence that a closely related plant is hemp).

The wild hops have been known since ancient times. It grew wild in the shrubby forest edges and on the banks of streems and rivers. Hop cones were collected and farmers at that time were still gathering experience with this plant. The beginnings of hops collection (hop cones) were related to its use in healing. For example, it was used for blood purification. Shoots of hops were sought after as spring edible food. From there, hops continued to be used for the preparation of infusions and the flavoring of fermented beverages and mead. Obviously, mainly in the places of its greatest spread, wild hops have been used to flavor and prolong the shelf life of ancient beers. Original beers, ie alcoholic beverages made from starchy seeds by more complex technologies than beverages produced by spontaneous fermentation, were invented in more places. The very advanced beer production, following the experience in the Middle East, is documented in detail from the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC from Egypt. The original beers were hop-less and completely different from the later beers and certainly even today’s beers. The knowledge of beer production spread and gained importance in the areas where the vine growing was not so successful.
The extension of hop is mentioned in number 4.; several thousand years have passed between the first appearance of “wild” hops in the Ohře floodplain and its first proven use. However, it is also likely that hops have been “domesticated” several times, for example Plinius the Elder (23-79 AD) in his encyclopedia of natural sciences (Naturalis Historia), and he called it “lupulus, lupus salicitarius” and has it as a culinary delicacy. So first, its fragile spring shoots were probably eaten.

From our territory, hops are known, for example, from the research of plant macro-residues of horse stables from the High Middle Ages; hops were part of the horse’s feed, probably added to the forage because of its sedative effects. The hops started to be added to the beer in the Middle Ages.

Form the wild varieties of hops, eco-types suitable for cultivation have been selected in the past. When and how the wild hops were transformed into cultural, noble forms has not yet been identified. The oldest available written records of the use of hops for beer production come from nations in areas of the North Caucasus, called “The Nart Epos”, dated to the 7th – 8th centuries BC, with myths from the life of Nartes, the ancestors of today’s Ossetians, contains in one of the stories a guide to preparing a heady drink of malt and hops.

The oldest places with documented occurrence of hops in our country are: Mikulčice (8th -10th century), Olomouc (10th – 11th century), then Most, Jihlava, Opava, Prachatice, Prague, Přerov, Tábor, Uherský Brod, Uherské Hradiště and Nymburk (13th – 16th century). Hops were also founded in monasteries and ecclesiastical estates, so there are numerous records of its cultivation with Augustinians, Premonstrates, Cistercians, Dominicans or Benedictine. Hop cultivation probably took place in Central Europe, where mead spiced with hops was abundant. Originally, heaths or other herbs were used for the preparation of fermented beverages, but in Central Europe the heaths did not grow and so the leavens were spiced and preserved by hops, which created a beer of today’s type. The rapid spread of hopped beers and the collection and cultivation of hops was aided by the development of gain trade imported along the rivers and along the coast to areas of northwestern Europe, where population growth and long-therm grain shortage occurred.

Have you not visited the hop path yet?

So you can take a stroll and read interesting facts about hops and the place.

You are entering the grounds of the Hop Institute, where agricultural machinery moves all year around. Take extra care! Enter at your own risk.


Hop Research Institute Co., LTD
Kadanska 2525
438 01 Zatec
+420 415 732 111


Stekník, 438 01 Žatec


Beer tasting during the beer festival at the Hop Research Institute in Žatec.

-traditional event for invited experts and laics at the Hop Research Institute
-accompanying program at the beer festival