Florida’s lack of scientific support and progress for production research of one of the newest and most unique crops to be introduced to our state, leaves hop growers facing additional challenges unaccompanied by scientific investigation. Developing solid information on production methods for this perennial crop takes multiple seasons, leaving many inexperienced early adoptive growers to employ “trial by fire” and other nonscientific methods rather than devoting resources to research. With recent financial shakeups in state allocated dollars and reduction in dependable researchers, development of reliable information becomes surrogated to industry members, such as Florida Hops, LLC, an organization staffed with scientists and growers exclusively dedicated to hop production in Florida.
Regrettably, lack of scientific output isn’t the only critical issue in hop production. Hop growers nationwide are starting to question their futures due to decline in distribution of domestic craft beer volumes from independent breweries compared to an increase in shipments by companies that are partially owned or fully owned by big beer brands, such as Anheuser-Bush InBev. To combat the impact of buyouts and heavier competition, some independent beer brands have taken on additional debt, hoping to sale their way out of an overleveraged situation. Unfortunately, some have found themselves too big to fall back on local support, eventually losing their original identity and connection with craft beer’s consumers. Some larger hop growers and brokers also saw their debts go delinquent, as they too became overextended trying to meet demands powered by hopes of capitalizing on the market’s unprecedented growth. Whereas buyout (soldout) brands are seeing comfort having improved access to larger distribution networks, as well as financing, and larger independent craft brewers are struggling to sustain their growth, smaller microbrewer’s distribution volumes are still growing, upwards to twice the rate of others in the craft beer segment, contributing to seizure of over 12% of the US beer market in 2016. Portions of this growth can be accredited to local and locavore movements providing some breweries with incredible market value.
By tapping securely into the local market and craft beer culture, Florida grown hops now have a strong likelihood of reaching heights that were once thought impossible for this crop in this environment. Naysayers have often attempted to illegitimize production efforts by reciting unfounded anecdotal views, not understanding the opportunity Florida’s climate presents to production, and relying on an insufficient amount of hands on experience. Now, production operations are popping up across the state, often starting out at 1 to 2 acres, with room to expand, determined to deliver fresh whole cone hops to their local breweries. These local market production units are developing, increasing, and helping to maintain market value of local breweries. This further augments the need for scientific based research. Unfortunately, researchers have been incongruous, having been focused on competition amongst each other and showing an indifference to establishing methodology and production guidelines for high quality products. Local consumers, now with the prospect of drinking beers made with unique brewing ingredients, such as exclusive grains, limited hops varieties, and new yeast strains, are the cornerstone in establishing a viable brewing crop market, thus promoting the discoveries from scientific investigations. By increasing community engagement efforts, especially through social media platforms, hop growers in Florida have a significant advantage and ability to further add to market value for breweries in our state due to the crop’s immediate linkage to the craft. In turn, brewers should complement local hop growers by increasing their commitment for high quality locally grown products at rates that make the challenge of production worthwhile and sustainable. Promoting quality standards will ensure hop growers and craft brewers can maintain consistency in their products and consumers can know they are getting something that mass-produced beers can’t do, build community.
Put quality first and let the industry experts at Florida Hops, LLC help build your brand. From site development and construction to harvest, sale, and promotions, we’ve got you covered.
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