Photo:UF professor Brian Pearson
Central Florida Roundup
Hop to it: UF professor's project leads to Florida-produced hops
Brian Pearson was in England five or six years ago, vacationing with family after finishing his Ph.D. They stopped at a small pub in London, where Pearson, who usually prefers Miller Light, decided to try something different.
“They had an English bitter that was just so amazingly complex and just delicious,” Pearson says.
He came home and couldn’t find the beer anywhere, so he taught himself to brew his own. Pearson learned about the importance of hops, the flowering plant that gives beer its flavor, and read that hops couldn’t be grown in Florida — the days were too hot, humid and full of pests and disease.
That struck Pearson, a professor at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences whose doctorate is in environmental horticulture, as a challenge. He ordered a few plants and started growing. An undergrad in one of Pearson’s classes, at UF’s Mid-Florida Research & Education Center in Apopka, joined him, turning it into a thesis.
Their work led to a $158,000 research grant last year from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, through which Pearson is now growing about 20 varietals of hops to learn which, if any, hold the most commercial promise for Florida farmers.
The hops are now growing up 20-foot-tall trellises that have been erected on a halfacre field at the Mid-Florida Center, which Pearson, who moved to Apopka as a teenager, used to drive by regularly while in high school.
Pearson, 36, says the work has already proven that hops can, in fact, be grown in Florida. “Now the questions are, what are the yields, and is it economical?” So far, the Florida plants produce fewer wet hops per pound than those grown in more ideal northern climates, though they are not yet mature and they can be harvested more frequently each year. Pearson estimates that between 10 and 15 Florida growers have put small hops fields into production.
Earlier this year, Pearson sent about 21 pounds of hops harvested in January from an IFAS greenhouse to First Magnitude Brewing, a Gainesville microbrewery that used them to produce one of the first Florida hops beers. The brewery named it Apopka Hops Pale Ale.
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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER — After SpaceX successfully reused a rocket booster, CEO Elon Musk says the company’s goal is to begin relaunching the same rockets within 24 hours.
OCOEE — City leaders approved an ordinance prohibiting people from begging for money at intersections and requiring them to register with the city before begging on sidewalks.
ORANGE COUNTY — Mayor Teresa Jacobs vowed to focus on building more affordable housing in her annual State of the County Address.
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SANFORD — Surinam Airways began weekly flights between Orlando Sanford International Airport and Aruba.
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» Mark Harmon was appointed executive director of the Arts & History Museums-Maitland. Harmon, who previously ran a history museum in Oregon, replaces Andrea Bailey Cox, who left for another job.