Local grown hops add variety for taste buds

Posted at 6:43 PM, Feb 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-26 00:21:26-05

"They're processed into this form to make them more stable for storage,” said Cigar City Brewmaster Wayne Wambles.

This is what Wambles says makes craft beer tasty.

"Hops are a plant that we use to add different aromatics and bitterness to beer,” he said.

From spicy to floral, earthy to fruity, hops in Jai Alai, Florida Cracker or Maduro makes every beer tastes different.

"It's going to develop different properties just based upon the environment that it's being grown in,” said Wambles.

Rarely do about 200 Florida craft breweries use hops grown here. They import about 2 million pounds from around the country and the world.

“Those come from Oregon, Germany, lot of shipping cost in that,” said Simon Bollin of the Hillsborough County Economic Development.

Now Hillsborough County and the University of Florida are working together using an almost $160 thousand grant from the Florida Department of Agriculture growing hops in Balm and Apopka, experimenting to see which varieties thrive.

"A good contrast would be blueberries. You know 20 years ago there was very little blueberry acreage in the state and today we're the 8th largest blueberry producer in the country,” said Bollin.

Hops needs long, warm days and short, cool nights so Florida weather could be a challenge-- not to mention humidity and pests.

But the experiment could open new doors for micro-breweries like Cigar City and for taste buds around the world.  

“The fact that if something was being grown down here, it might be a new raw material,” said Wambles.

"Cigar City has never made a wet hop beer. Wet hope beer is where you take the hops straight off the vine when they're pulled from the field so they're still have a high level of moisture content and you use them directly into the beer without drying them,” he added.