(Edited 5/1): On Wednesday, May 3, at 4pm, Wicked Barley Brewing Company taps its “Throat Ripper Pale Ale.” Ok, you might ask, don’t breweries tap new beers and pilot batches frequently? What makes this beer unique and worthy of a headline, though, is that it is tapping into scientific and historical significance in the craft beer industry, and particularly in the State of Florida. It will be the first time a beer brewed with 100% Florida-grown hops flows in the Jacksonville area.
U.S. hops are predominantly grown in the Pacific Northwest due to that area’s climate. It had long been thought that hops would not survive, let alone thrive, in the harsher Florida environment. The Florida Hops Consortium, a research-based collaborative group of scientists, horticulturists, producers and brewers, is using scientific research in conjunction with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Research Center in Apopka to study the viability of growing a variety of hops in the Sunshine State, with an eye toward sustaining commercial production for the benefit of local craft brewers.
Earlier in April, the first beer brewed exclusively with Florida-grown hops was released in Gainesville at First Magnitude Brewing Company. For a look at the beer, together with background about UF’s Brian Pearson and the UF/IFAS hops research program, see prior story. More recently, several additional Florida breweries have brewed beers using different combinations of the 100% Florida grown hops.
Wicked Barley’s Co-Founder and Brewmaster Philip Maple wanted to bring the “Florida-Grown Hops” phenomenon to Jacksonville and reached out to the Consortium. As some hops become more difficult and less cost-effective for brewers to obtain, Philip looks at Florida-grown hops as a “potential gamechanger,” and adds that it’s “amazing” to think that good hops can be produced here.
The Wicked Barley brewers brewed up a small batch using only three hops grown through the Consortium: Neomexicanus, Columbus and Chinook. This marked the first time that Wicked Barley has used whole-cone hops, as distinguished from the typical hop “pellets.” Philip explains that the hops were added “via a massive whirlpool addition,” and were not used as bittering hops. The end result is a 7% ABV beer with 35 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).
Wicked Barley is donating all proceeds from the sales of the “Throat Ripper Pale Ale” to the Florida Hops Consortium to help continue the research efforts. Don’t let that name throw you, however. It’s a reference to a movie, says Philip, and it’s not any reflection on the IBU of the beer or the flavor. He offered the following brewer’s notes in describing the beer: residual sweetness, some ABV punch, surprisingly citrus nose; overall, citrusy with a malt backbone.
If you’re in the Jax area and want to be part of Florida hops history (or just need an educational excuse to drink beer), you’ll want to check out the beer fairly early, as it’s a small pilot batch that likely will be history (of a different sort) rather quickly on May 3.
In other Wicked Barley news, the brewery releases its Eradicator Double IPA in cans on Saturday, April 29. The beer is the product of a new, tweaked recipe, resulting in a smoother and more balanced brew, says Philip. And, if you’ve ever (or never) heard of a German Kottbusser, you’ll find this “forgotten” style on tap as of April 28. The German Wheat Beer (7.3 ABV) is made with flaked oats, molasses, Orange Blossom Honey, and Kolsch yeast, for a malty, sweet, wheat beer. This writer gives it a thumbs-up.
Wicked Barley Brewing Company is located at 4100 Baymeadows Rd., Jacksonville, on the banks of Goodby’s Creek, and offers a dining room, bar, outdoor covered deck, beer garden, and boat dock. In March 2017, the brewery garnered several awards at the Best Florida Beer Championships, including the “Best Brewpub” honor. The brewery is open daily: Monday-Thursday 4-10pm; Friday-Saturday 11am-11pm; Sunday 11am-9pm.
Science and beer: yeah, it’s a thing! I’m looking forward to the tapping of Wicked Barley’s new Pale Ale on Monday!
Linda Johnson, Certified Cicerone®
(excerpted from www.brewnymph.com)
(Photos by Linda Johnson unless otherwise credited)