When one thinks of hops, one most likely thinks first of beer. The brewing of beer, and especially its subsequent consumption, are likely to eclipse thoughts of any other part of the process that brings such a tasty beverage to the table. There’s considerably more to the craft than just the end result. It takes careful cultivation to get hops to grow, especially in an area where they aren’t commonly planted. Even though they are more often grown in cooler climes, they can be grown in the Florida Panhandle.
Hops have been used in brewing for centuries. The fragrant cones of this climbing vine are used primarily to impart a bitter flavor to beer that balances the sweetness of the malt. They may also be used to flavor the beer, adding desirable season and aroma to the finished product. Hops also have some antibacterial properties, which can help brewer’s yeast compete against other, less desirable microorganisms.
Being a vining crop, hops need plenty of room to stretch out. An aspiring hop farmer will need a source of poles upon which to string trellises. A standard height for hops trellises is 18 feet, which means that some method for harvesting at such heights is also required. A portable ladder of some sort is one option, as one of our local hop growers uses, or an adventurous farmer might try the antique method of using stilts.
Where problems arise is with pests and diseases in Florida. The hot, humid weather, is an ideal environment for organisms that cause harm to crops. Some of the traditional problems that hop growers encounter are spider mites, aphids, loopers, various fungal pathogens, and even a couple of viruses. In Walton County, one of our growers has also had troubles with some less common hop pests, including plant hoppers, yellow-striped armyworms, and even some buck moth caterpillars (than normally feed on oak leaves).
The important thing for anyone growing hops, or any out-of-the-ordinary crop, is to scout regularly for problems and use the resources that are available to solve them. Extension is one of those resources – contact your local extension office if you need help!
For more information on hops in Florida, use the following EDIS publication link: