Researcher Dr. William Turechek of USDA Agriculture Research Station US Horticultural Research Laboratory in Fort Pierce, Florida as well as Ed Skvarch of the St. Lucie County University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Office have partnered with Richard Smith, founder and principal consultant of Florida Hops, LLC in Orlando, and Ricky Burts, Florida’s first commercial hop grower and owner of Burts Farms in Dunnellon, to expand the USDA’s ongoing research into hop production in Florida. Florida Hops, LLC and Burts Farms will contribute to broadening the work through redesign of hopyard production systems, developing and strengthening outreach efforts, and establishing essential economic data as a basis for this emerging industry.
January 2017, Dr. Turechek’s research lab was awarded a specialty crop grant that allowed study of hop production under a short trellis design and observation of plant response to extended photoperiod conditions. The work resulted in Hop Trunk IPA, a wet hopped beer brewed by Pete Anderson of Pareidolia Brewing Company in Sebastian, Florida and Monster Hole, a session IPA brewed by Orchid Island Brewing and double dry hopped with fresh Florida grown hops harvested at the research center. Both beers were highly rated, leaving brewers to anticipate more production of the crop; however, Hurricane Irma significantly damaged the South Florida hopyard, prompting a reassessment of its design structure.
The expansion of the hopyard at the USDA will include redesign of their short trellis system and installation of a 20-foot-tall trellis system outfitted with lights to manipulate the plant’s photoperiod. Previous results using photoperiod manipulation may indicate potential for the crop to be produced using this method. Further research will allow for a comparison of the two production systems and evaluation of the crop’s economic viability.
Often seen as a theoretically lucrative alternative to citrus and ornamental plant industries, interest into hop production as a specialty crop to support desire for high quality locally grown brewing ingredients has rapidly increased since the first scientific publication on hop research in Florida in 2015.
Though hops produced at the Agriculture Research Station in Ft. Pierce will be dedicated to breweries and brewpubs along the Treasure and Space Coasts, production companies across Florida such as North Florida Hops Company in Live Oak, Caloosa Hops in Lake Wales, Florida Hop Growers in Dade City, Shark Hops in Deland, Riverbend Hop Farm in High Springs and many other interested growers all stand to gain from the information developed through Dr. Turechek’s advanced research and the partnership with Florida Hops, LLC and Burts Farms.
The hops will be used to provide ongoing support for the research with the hopes of making the project self-sustaining.
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Richard M. Smith, Founder of Florida Hops, LLC