Florida Hops set down with Richard Smith, the University of Florida’s biological scientist focused on hop production in Florida. He is the author of the first scientific peer reviewed publication on hop production in the state.
In 2014, Richard trialed 4 hop varieties in an open-sided greenhouse at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Mid-Florida Research and Education Center as research for his undergraduate thesis and later published in the Journal of Undergraduate Research. Recognized as the first peer reviewed publication on hop production in Florida, it would also help secure a $158,000 specialty crop grant, further investigating their production potential.
“Hops isn’t the only plant I study. But it is so exciting to see such enthusiastic support over the years. To go from just a research project to a burgeoning industry is unbelievable!”
Though his research includes other medicinal plants, his original research project attracts visitors throughout the US to Apopka.
“I have a passion for research and hours of dedicated daily interaction with the plant. I think those things have helped me be successful, at first growing a hop plant, and now producing several pounds on multiple harvests for some varieties, in an environment that was once thought inhospitable for hop growth. People used to say you couldn’t grow hops in Florida, now they say you can grow it, however, it lacks yield. And that’s part of what my research is hoping to break through.”
Several beers feature hops he’s grown: Redlight Redlight’s Provision Farmhouse Ale, Wicked Barley Brewing Co.’s Throat Ripper Pale Ale, and First Magnitude’s Apopka Hop Pale Ale, recognized as the first beer with the Fresh From Florida hop label.
“I see growth in craft beer, especially from homebrewing. However, in the Southeastern US, it’s a high likelihood fresh or wet hops aren’t used. That’s something every beer drinker should experience.”
Backyard Barn and Winery has produced hops for several years. Now more growers are focused on supplying high quality fresh Florida grown hops: Burts Farms in Dunnellin, Caloosa Hops in Lake Wales, Shark Hops Farm in Deland, Southern Hop Initiative in Oakland, Florida Hop Growers in Dade City and Bone Hook Beer in Naples.
“I want to breed a hop, you know, one that is actually born on Floridian soil. I think that would be such an impressive feat!”