The Florida hops industry is paving the way for great, locally grown beer.

St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t always about wearing green and drinking a pint!

The story of Florida hops seems to be one under the spell of the Luck of the Irish. As everything green is celebrated on St. Patrick’s Day, especially green beer, it’s only fitting to examine the latest Florida hops industry news. Hops are the flower of a vining plant that are integral in the beer-making process. Though they don’t make beer green, they are a major cash crop for many growers, especially those in the Pacific Northwest. However, recent developments indicate Florida hops growers could be able to cash in on the pot of hops gold at the end of the rainbow.

The History of St. Patrick’s Day and Beer

St. Patrick’s Day is a cultural celebration of Irish heritage and a religious celebration of the traditional death date of St. Patrick. St. Patrick is the primary and most well-known patron saint of Ireland and is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. The day was made an official Feast Day by the Christian church in the 1600s.

One might wonder how a celebration of Christianity falling in the middle of the Lenten season, with its restrictions and focus on self-denial, came to be associated with green beer-drinking and a general spirit of imbibing. Since it’s an official Feast Day, restrictions on food and drinking are lifted, which made it one of the few days during Lent where it was okay to drink alcohol. Both the focus on all things Irish and the enjoyment of spirits have stayed with St. Patrick’s Day into the present day.

History of Florida Hops 

The story of Florida hops started when UF/IFAS assistant professor Brian Pearson was interested in brewing beer at home. Like many homebrewers, he wanted to grow his own hops in his backyard. However, hops have not always been well-suited to Florida’s hot, humid climate. He found a wild Southwestern hop plant, and planted it as a test of sorts to see how it would grow. Like the stuff made of legends, the wild hops thrived in the Florida sunshine.

Pearson realized the potential, given that craft beer brewing produced $875.9 million in Florida in 2013 alone,  according to a UF article. High-end microbreweries want fresh, wet hops, which can only be achieved with a local supply.

The Florida hops industry has gone from one researcher’s backyard to a group of growers, brewers, and researchers looking to promote the growth of the industry in Florida in a few short years. FloridaHops.com, the website of Florida Hops, LLC, offers a hops marketplace and updates on the current research and growing.

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