BALM, Fla. — If you hopped over to the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center and tasted the craft beer made from hops grown by scientists at the University of Florida, you’d notice it’s a little bitter, but researchers and brewers say that’s just what they want.
On October 19, UF scientists showed the latest research results from their hops studies. Craft beer lovers want to know about taste and aroma, and UF/IFAS researchers see an increase in alpha acid in the hops they grow. That acid indicated bitterness.
“Brewers need to know the alpha acid content of hops to determine how much hops to use, according to the bitterness level they like to achieve, said Shinsuke Agehara, an assistant professor of horticultural sciences. “Brewers also need to know the essential oil content and profile to create desirable aroma intensity and profile in the beer. Hops quality data are important for brewers to formulate a recipe, including how much hops to use, blending with other varieties of hops, boiling time and when to add hops during the brewing process.”
Zhanao Deng, a UF/IFAS professor of environmental horticulture, also tries to grow hops at the center. He has been testing 22 hops varieties, in hopes they can grow in Florida.
Deng has identified new types of ‘Cascade’ that can produce larger, heavier cones with stronger aroma than common ‘Cascade,’ one of the top varieties often used by brewers.
Brewers in the Tampa Bay region like what they taste in beer made from ‘Cascade’ hops.
“The pale ale brewed with ‘Cascade’ hops harvested from our hopyard has unique flavors,” said Agehara. “Typically, ‘Cascade’ is known to have a classic citrus aroma, but the beer brewed with our ‘Cascade’ had notes of cantaloupe and honeydew with a hint of ripe citrus.”
Three other varieties, ‘Comet,’ ‘Nugget’ and ‘Zeus,’ have produced hops cones with higher alpha acids, higher essential oil contents and strong aroma. These varieties may be good candidates for further larger-scale testing, Deng said.
Florida has 368 craft breweries, and many are in the Tampa Bay region. Growing interest in craft beer spurred the Hillsborough County Economic Development Council to seek a partnership with the Gulf Coast REC about six years ago.
“Craft beers are well-known for their diverse styles and flavors, which is also one of the main attributes that attracts consumers,” Deng said. “Brewers use multiple hops varieties to create unique beer flavors.”
Follow the UF/IFAS hops-growing project on Facebook.
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.