WIMAUMA, FLORIDA — Fans of local beer can raise a glass to a handful of academic farmers who have proven that hops can be grown in the Sunshine State.
After six years of work, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) boasts 2.2 acres of farmland in Hillsborough County that produces thousands of pounds of the beloved crop.
OVERCOMING NATURAL CHALLENGES
Florida’s hot and humid climate has long challenged farmers seeking to grow the crop in the state but the UF researchers leading the project have found solutions to these natural impediments.
Hops typically need close to 15 hours of daylight in order to flourish – something that the average summer day in Florida fails to provide. So researchers installed LED-lights to shine on the vines from 6 pm until midnight.
“We are tricking them as if they are still growing in the pacific northwest environment,” biological scientist Bill Wang told WFTS.
The yield of over 1,500 pounds per acre rivals some of the best farms in the country located in other regions. When fully grown, the hops line the farmland like thick curtains as the vines run up the metal wires hoisted over ten feet in the air.
LOCAL HOPS AND TASTY BREWS
The Florida soil and growing seasons present new opportunities for local breweries.
Researchers have identified new varieties of hops that may help bring a distinct taste for craft beer drinkers in the state.
“The pale ale brewed with ‘Cascade’ hops harvested from our hopyard has unique flavors,” Shinsuke Agehara told UF news in 2021. “Typically, ‘Cascade’ is known to have a classic citrus aroma, but the beer brewed with our ‘Cascade’ had notes of cantaloupe and honeydew with a hint of ripe citrus.”
As a result, local brewmasters can offer a new product to their patrons because they are able to deliver fresher ingredients into the mix.
“If it’s from the field within 24 hours into their mix, then they can have a style of beer that they aren’t able to have yet,” field manager Christopher Delcastillo told WFTS.
“This is one of the coolest projects I’ve ever been a part of, being able to build it, and when I see a group of people walk in the shade of the hops plants, it's quite a magical moment.”