Taste Beer Brewed from Florida-Grown Hops

If you hopped over to the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC) and tasted the craft beer made from hops grown by scientists at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), you’d notice it’s a little bitter. But researchers and brewers say that’s just what they want.

Those attending the Florida Ag Expo on Nov. 18 will have the chance to tour the hopyard at the GCREC and sample beer made from hops grown at the center. A beer tasting will take place at the end of the event, immediately following the field tours.

Zhanao Deng, a UF/IFAS professor of environmental horticulture, grows hops at the GCREC. He has been testing 22 hop varieties, in hopes they can perform well in Florida. Deng has identified new types of Cascade hops that can produce larger, heavier cones with stronger aroma than common Cascade, one of the hop varieties often used by brewers.

“The pale ale brewed with Cascade hops harvested from our hopyard has unique flavors,” said Shinsuke Agehara, an assistant professor of horticultural sciences at the GCREC. “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.”

Three other varieties, Comet, Nugget and Zeus, have produced hop cones with higher alpha acids, higher essential oil contents and stronger aroma. These varieties may be good candidates for further larger-scale testing, Deng said.

“Craft beers are well-known for their diverse styles and flavors, which is also one of the main attributes that attracts consumers,” Deng said. “Brewers commonly use multiple hop varieties to create unique beer flavors.”

Florida has 368 craft breweries, and many are in the Tampa Bay region. Growing interest in craft beer spurred the Hillsborough County Economic Council to seek a partnership with the GCREC about six years ago.