Last November, I suggested that one intention of the settlement of the Hudson Valley of New York in the first half of the 1600s was to set up an agricultural colony that might supply other colonial efforts with particular products. One of the books I have obtained as part of this idle bit of slow mouldering research is Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York by Oliver A Rink from 1986. In that book, the early settlement efforts of the 1624-25 season are discussed and I came across this reference on pages 81-82:
While the Oranje Boom languished at Plymouth, the main body of the expedition sailed from the Zuider Zee in a four ship squadron under the command of Willem Verhulst. Verhulst's instructions have survived, and they confirm the Company's intention to establish a permanent agricultural colony in New Netherland. The commander was under orders to Transport to New Netherland "divers trees, vines, and all sorts of seeds" and to have them planted and sown in their proper season..."Vines! How irritatingly close. You can see that when the Dutch came to North America, the intention was to create a small replication of the best of their own Protestant mercantile culture. This was quite intentional. They had broken from Spanish Catholic imperial rule and had yet to fall out with their fellow English Protestant cousins. The West India Company was a national monopoly created in the mid-1620s for this colonization effort.
In terms of agriculture, there was an importation of norms of methodology - in agriculture as well as brewing. And that likely included hops from the earliest date. Just a few years after Verhulst's flotilla crossed the ocean, the economic model was proving itself not what has been hoped and a new system, the patroonships, was created under which local landowners were granted slices of the colony to operate and feed revenues up into the Company by trading in furs and extending farming under a license from the Company. Kiliaen van Renssellaer, patroon of the greater Albany NY area, was the most successful of all the patroons in North America. It was called "Rensselaerswijck", the "-wijck" meaning district related to the suffix in English place names like Berwick. In an article by Jan Folerts, "Kiliaen van Renssellaer and Agricultural Policy in His Domain: A New Look At The New Patroon and Rensselaerswijck Before 1664", there is a description of the state of affairs a bit more than a decade after the settlement of his version of a colony:
For a number of years we are able to reconstruct which crops were grown in Rensselaerswijck. The tithe results of the years 1642 through 1646 give us a fairly accurate picture of the relative importance of the main crops. At least in this period there was a heavy preponderance of oats (50.8%) and wheat (42.7%). Barley (2.8%), buckwheat (1.7%). peas (1.2%) and rye (0.8%) played only minor roles. The prices of wheat and oats generally were in the ratio of 5 to 2, so in fact wheat was the leading crop in the patroonship. It goes without saying that in respect to the crops that were cultivated, Rensselaerswijck in no way resembled the densely populated areas of the Low Counties. There exactly the “non-grains” gradually took up more space. While the Netherlands for their food supply had made themselves almost entirely dependent on the Baltic region, we see in the American colony a one-sided directedness towards the cultivation of grains...The commercial orientation of the agriculture the first patroon envisaged in his domain, is shown by the history of hops and especially tobacco in the colony. Neither of these crops were a smashing success. Here again the patroon was inclined to believe in huge profits that never materialized. Every morgen was to produce about 6000 pounds of tobacco. According to Roessingh in his dissertation on tobacco culture in the Dutch Republic, even the best crop never amounted to more than one third of this. Problems in making tobacco culture pay were the fact that many tobacco planters preferred quantity to quality, which had a negative impact on the market price, and - in connection with this - the lack of cheap labor.
It's is a tantalizing passing reference to hops, isn't it. Yet point is clear. Not only was the colony in a new world and needed to be self sufficient - it had to create surplus to feed the homeland as well as the greater colonial effort elsewhere in the world. But where is that fact about the hops from? It is the only use of the word in the whole article. Footnote 58 states "VRBM, 233." Hmm... "VRBM"? Footnote 17 states "A.J.F. van Laer, ed., Van Rensselaer Bowier Manuscripts (Albany: University of the State of New York, 1909), 530; hereafter cited as VRBM." Bingo. Somewhere on page 233 in the 1909 edition of the Van Rensselaer Bowier Manuscripts published by Albany's University of the State of New York there is a reference to hops at Rensselaerswijck in the 1640s. Gold. We can also see that hops were valued in New Netherlands at the time from this deal at document 47b for a lump of rock:
I, [Jochim Kiersted, acknowledge the receipt] from the hands of Jan Jansen Damen of a piece of armo[zine for which Kiersted is to pay] the sum of ƒ48 if he [sells] it, otherwise he is to return the piece. [The piece] being sold, he, Jochim Kirste[d], shall pay with hops, malt or [barley], at market prices. Done this 30th of March 1643, in New Netherland, Joachim Kierstet
Why is all this of interest? Because the other week, I wondered whether the old North American hop variety Cluster was a "landrace" hop or the descendant hybrid intentionally or maybe created by implication of the Dutch colonization of the Hudson. And if an agricultural colony is set up with species importation and, then, plant and animal husbandry occurs which results in a hybrid hop part Dutch and part native North American ancestors of Cluster, well, that looks a lot like something that could help determine what indigenous Albany ale in its 1600s and 1700s form was like. Plus, Stan asked which is really always a good reason to start digging in a certain direction.