Tampa Bay's beer businesses buzzing about growing hops in Florida

Most hops are grown in the Pacific Northwest

WIMAUMA, Fla. — You can call Dr. Shinsuke Agehara "the hops whisperer."

Tampa Bay area breweries challenged the University of Florida plant physiologist to grow 800 hops plants in the Sunshine State, specifically in a patch of field in Wimauma.

That is a tricky task considering most hops are grown in the Pacific Northwest, where the climate and longer daylight hours during the summer are crucial to cultivating beer’s main ingredient. 

“We have to overcome some challenges, and environment is one of them,” says Shinsuke.

If Shinsuke can solve those problems, and he just had a recent breakthrough, it could mean a boost for both the 70-plus local breweries paying for expensive hops and Florida farmers who would have a new cash crop to grow.

“We’re the number two fastest growing market for brewers,” says Casey Hughes, brewmaster for Coppertail Brewing in Ybor City. “Let’s keep the money in state. Keep the hop growers in state. Keep the jobs for harvesting, for shipping.”

There are still a lot of question marks about growing hops in Florida. And having enough locally-grown hops to make a difference is probably years away. 

Recently Shinsuke started using LED lights to extend the “daylight” growing hours for hops. It is working well so far. You can taste his results.

St. Petersburg's 3 Daughters Brewing managed to concoct a small batch of beer from hops Shinsuke harvested.

The verdict?

“It tasted wonderful,” Shinsuke says.

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