Why is it called a hogshead?

Answered by James Porterfield

The term “hogshead” has an interesting history that dates back to the 15th century in England. Originally, it was referred to as “hogges hede,” a term used to describe a unit of measurement. This unit was equivalent to 63 gallons, which is significantly larger than the -day hogshead that officially holds 54 imperial gallons.

The name “hogges hede” is quite intriguing, and it raises questions about its origin. While the exact reason behind the choice of this name remains uncertain, there are a few theories that provide some insight.

One theory suggests that the name “hogges hede” originated from the fact that a hogshead was often made from the head of a hog. In the past, were commonly constructed by using wooden staves and hoops, and the round shape of a hogshead resembled the shape of a hog's head. This theory suggests that the name was simply a descriptive term based on appearance.

Another theory suggests that the name was derived from the size of the barrel. The word “hog” was used to describe something large or bulky, and the size of a hogshead, being larger than other barrel measurements of the time, may have led to the use of the term “hogges hede.” This theory implies that the name was chosen to emphasize the larger capacity of the barrel compared to other units of measurement.

In the industry, the hogshead has been widely used as a standard measure and barrel size in Britain. It has been commonly used to store and transport various beverages, including . As a sommelier and brewer, I have come across hogsheads during my experiences in the industry.

The use of hogsheads in brewing has been particularly significant. Breweries often filled hogsheads with beer, allowing it to mature and develop its flavor over time. The larger size of the hogshead allowed for a longer aging process, resulting in a more complex and refined taste. This tradition has been carried on in many British breweries, where hogsheads are still used in the production and storage of beer.

To summarize, the term “hogshead” originated from the 15th century English term “hogges hede,” which referred to a unit of measurement equivalent to 63 gallons. The exact reason behind the choice of this name remains uncertain, but theories suggest it may have been based on the appearance or size of the barrel. In the brewing industry, the hogshead has been a standard measure and barrel size, allowing for the maturation and development of beer flavors.