Hildegard Von Bingen was a 12th-century abbess of the Benedictine Convent of Rupertsberg near Bingen, on the west bank of the lower Rhine. Born in 1098 at Böckelheim on the Nahe (not far from present-day Frankfurt, Germany), she was probably the first person to describe hops in a scientific manner. During her life, she was a mystic, prophet, composer, brewster, prolific writer on religion and the natural world, and advisor and physician to German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. In her publications about natural history and healing, she described the influence of various herbs on human health. Her most famous medical work was and still is Liber Subtilitatum Diversarum Naturarum Creaturarum (Book about the subtleties of the diverse natural creatures), part I of which is Causae et Curae [Causes and cures (of diseases)] and part II, Physica. In Physica, Hildegard described the preservative qualities of hops when added to a beverage like beer. In the same book, she also mentioned that hop increases melancholy or “back bile,” one of Hippocrates’ “four humors” of physiology; the others are man’s choleric, phlegmatic, and sanguine dispositions. Today we know that hops can relax the nervous system and thus have a calming, sedative effect, which promotes sleep. This insight made Hildegard a progressive in her time, given that her contemporaries recommended hops as a treatment for exactly the opposite affliction, depression. Hildegard also wrote extensively about barley, which she considered beneficial for the stomach and intestines; she recommended a drink made from barley as a restorative after a cold or stomach flu. Many of Hildegard’s writings have stood the test of time and are still considered valid by homeopaths and physicians. Hildegard died in her beloved Rupertsberg in 1179 at age 81—an incredible example of longevity at a time when the life expectancy was merely 30 to 40 years. There are those who speculate that her daily ration of well-hopped beer may have given her a life that was as long as it was enjoyable.

See also beer writing.