Prior to 2015, there was no record of hop production in Florida. Now, in just three short years, Florida has found an ability to produce a crop that is critical to brewing craft beer twice a year, essentially doubling productivity.
Research facilities such as the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm and private commercial production growers like Central Florida Hops in Zellwood (Orange County’s first commercial hopyard) are finding no shortage in demand for locally grown hops, and that a second season harvest allows for continued gains for this highly valued specialty crop.
Appeal for locally grown hops has now spilled out to face new demand from outside the brewing industry. Brewers’ desire for bittering and aromatic qualities of hops have started to reach new markets. Hops are beginning to be requested by craft coffee brewers like Ligature Coffee based in Orlando. Its Dry Hopped Peach Cold Brew is made with Kenyan Githembe coffee and Florida-grown hops. The forward-thinking coffee house would use the hops to provide fresh tropical aromas and stone fruit taste to the cold-brewed coffee. It is soon to be on tap and bottled at several locations across Orlando.
The Yaupon Brothers American Tea Co., a company based in New Smyrna Beach that sources locally grown yaupon (Ilex vomitoria) — the only naturally caffeinated plant native to the U.S. — is now experimenting with Florida-grown hops as an addition to their expanding line of teas. Though hops would provide flavor and aroma to tea, Yaupon Brothers is making use of the hops’ many medicinal properties (particularly calming and detoxification) to provide some anxiety relief, and pairing them with the positive effects of lavender.
Even kombucha, a beverage made from the fermentation activity of a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast mixed with black or green tea and sugar, such as the India Pale Kombucha (IPK) from Orlando City Kombucha, which uses Florida-grown hops, also is beginning to see the value of fresh locally grown hops for their flavor and aromatic contributions, pairing well with added citrus.
Hops also are gaining attention beyond bittering and aroma. They have often been considered very beautiful flowers and Bloom by Nadine, a floral company based in Windermere, is showing how to harness the hop cones’ attractiveness by using them in bouquets and boutonnieres. And as breweries around the world become venues to host weddings, bridal showers, and bachelor parties, the trend to incorporate hop flowers is beginning to blossom.
Though the growth of hops into other markets is evident, it in no way eclipses the desire of the brewing industry for fresh locally grown hops, expanding into more beer styles like sours, India pale lagers, as well as the popular New England IPA. The range of benefits stemming from the dynamic nature of hops is allowing growers to tap into new markets and crack open new opportunities for one of Florida’s most unique crops.