Whether or not you realize it when you drink that beer, beer and science just go together! Last week, First Magnitude Brewing Company (Gainesville) released a limited batch of a true original pale ale. The beer is not only a product of First Magnitude’s brewing team, but it’s also a testament to advances in scientific research. The brewery’s release of “Apopka Hop Pale Ale,” marked the first beer brewed exclusively with 100% Florida-grown hops.
While a beer brewed with six hops isn’t unusual, when those six hops were all grown and harvested solely in Florida, it’s unique, considering that Florida’s hot climate isn’t typically thought of as conducive to hops. What started out as a hobby for University of Florida’s Brian Pearson about five years ago has bloomed into a funded university research program. Pearson, an assistant professor of environmental horticulture at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), completed his first successful trial in 2012. Last year, when word of Pearson’s research at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka became widely known, he began fielding calls from citrus growers interested in learning about “diversifying their crops with hops,” and touring the production facility. “We’ve lit a fire of curiosity in these growers because of our successful trials,” Pearson says. Still, there’s cautious optimism until further determination of whether local hops production can be profitable. Although he sees success, he adds that “the biggest production challenge we’ve faced is low yield.” Using exploratory horticultural techniques, the team has been able to make strides in production, making its way toward becoming more competitive. Research continues into next year.
Can hops take the heat of Florida? In a research paper originally published in October 2013, Pearson concludes that they can. And, it seems that more than a few folks are interested, as his paper has been downloaded more than 7600 times, and 115,000 people viewed documentation that his team shared last year on social media, according to a press release. The USDA awarded Pearson’s team a two-year, $158,000 grant that expires at the end of 2017, and they are pursuing additional funding sources. “Getting research dollars to expeditiously continue this effort is the missing piece right now,” he said. “We’re currently cultivating 20 varieties of hops here at our research facility as part of a two-year trial.”
According to First Magnitude, the beer is a “bright, floral, easy-drinking pale ale.” The limited supplies of the beer at the brewery’s tap room didn’t last too long, as the initial release on draft and in bottles sold out in less than two hours, according to the brewery’s social media pages. The brewery plans to brew the beer again.
First Magnitude Brewing Company is located in Gainesville near the University of Florida campus, and distribution of its beers on draft and in cans extends throughout North Florida.
Linda Johnson, Certified Cicerone®
Covering Florida’s scene, and locally in North Florida
(cover photo by First Magnitude Brewing Company)