The craft beer industry is growing quickly, and a UF/IFAS research team is exploring whether Florida growers could benefit from the growth of this niche industry through supplying this much-needed crop to large and small breweries. The research was started in the backyard of UF horticulturist Brian Pearson, who wanted to see if he could grow hops for his own beer-brewing hobby. Florida growers and local breweries alike have expressed interest in growing hops in The Sunshine State.

Too Humid for Hops

Florida growers cultivate many different crops, but to date hops has not been one of them. Hops like cool weather, and Florida’s hot, humid climate is not very hops-friendly. The bulk of the country’s hops are grown in the Pacific Northwest, a location with a very different climate than the Florida and the Southeast.

However, Pearson has seen some successes with his backyard hops, enough for UF/IFAS to form a 3-person research team to explore the possibility of growing the vining plants that controls the aroma and flavor of a batch of beer.

Advantages for Florida Growers

Hops are necessary for the beer-brewing process, but small breweries have trouble sourcing hops because the larger breweries take the lion’s share of what’s grown in the country. Florida growers have an even harder time of it, as they live the furthest away from where the hops were grown, and Florida saw more microbreweries start up in 2015 than any other state. In short, there is a high demand for hops and a small supply. Any Florida grower who could fill that demand would have a good thing going.

Using locally-grown hops would have many benefits for breweries, too. In addition to saving money shipping hops from the opposite corner of the country and getting fresher hops, breweries would also benefit from sourcing local produce. Consumers like knowing that their foods and beverages come from local sources; it’s a tenet of the foodie movement. There are already Florida growers who are growing hops in their fields with the help of Pearson and the research team, and it could be just a matter of time before hops are growing everywhere in Florida.