Guest post: UF digs deep into Florida hops crop

By Jack Payne
Special to Beer in Florida 

Jack Payne

Jack Payne

The hunt for the next great Florida agriculture success story is unfolding in both Apopka and Wimauma. The storybook ending the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences hopes to write is one in which our state becomes a major hops producer.

That would provide a local supply to match the explosive growth of the craft brewing industry. Along the way, it would create jobs, increase growers’ and brewers’ profits, and give Florida beer devotees a chance to drink local.

Like so many previous success stories, it starts with science. Specifically, this story is set in a new hops yard in Apopka at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center and the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Wimauma. Both are run by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Our protagonists are environmental horticulturalists Brian Pearson in Apopka and Zhanao Deng in Wimauma, and plant physiologist Shinsuke Agehara in Wimauma.

Brian Pearson inspecting hops. (Photos courtesy of University of Florida).

Brian Pearson inspecting hops. (Photos courtesy of University of Florida).

Pearson started working on hops in his lab as a personal experiment before turning it into a trial of four hops varieties.

Deng’s work as a breeder of sterile lantana is so respected that his varieties are being tested in Africa for its potential to repel malaria-carrying mosquitoes. He’s game to test it as a repellent to Zika-virus-carrying bugs as well if there’s a call for it.

Florida brewers import their hops all the way from Washington State and foreign countries because we can’t grow good hops in Florida – yet. The subtropical climate and local pests and diseases conspire against it.

It’s a heavy lift to overcome those obstacles. If it were easy, it would have been done years ago in tandem with the launch of Florida’s craft brewing industry. As Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

The hops project is an example of how UF/IFAS sometimes swings for the fences. That comes at a cost. You have to have the stomach for striking out. Again, Edison described the innovator’s predicament well when he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Environmental horticulturist Zhanao Deng.

Environmental horticulturist Zhanao Deng.

Pearson, Deng, and Agehara will be taking a few hundred swings at once, thanks to local brewers’ donations of rhizomes (those are “root bulbs” to those not familiar with their availability from brewing suppliers) and equipment.

A hit, if it comes, won’t happen immediately.

But 20 years ago a thriving Florida blueberry industry didn’t seem all that likely either. Our breeders changed that. Florida growers now produce more than $75 million worth of blueberries annually – more than 95 percent of it in UF/IFAS-created varieties.

The hops experiments are also an example of how our research agenda is crafted with the input of the communities we serve.

Simon Bollin, the Hillsborough County agribusiness development manager, helped identify the opportunity. There are about 20 breweries in Hillsborough County and more than 60 in the greater Tampa area.

The Hillsborough County Agriculture Economic Development Council quickly realized that the value-added production potential for local farmers from hops was promising, but the AEDC needed proof of concept. That is where the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast REC and Mid-Florida REC came in. It has a team of scientists that is essentially the discovery and innovation arm of agriculture throughout the area.

Bollin brought brewers and breeders together, and they decided hops were worth a try. Bollin arranged for the donations of plant material and equipment. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences is lending its support through a $158,000 grant.

We have high hopes for hops, just as we do for peaches, pomegranates, and olives. You just can’t know ahead of time which crop will figure in the next success story. We just know that UF/IFAS scientists are likely authors of it, and right now they’re scribbling away in Hillsborough.

Jack Payne is the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. He can be reached at or  follow him on Twitter @JackPayneIFAS.




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Cigar City Brewing reaches sales agreement with Fireman Capital

CigarCity broke the news this morning that Cigar City Brewing in Tampa will sell controlling interest to a Boston-based private equity firm.

From the story:

Cigar City, a leading independent brewery based in Tampa, Fla., has agreed to sell controlling interest to Boston-based private equity firm Fireman Capital Partners, which already owns majority stakes in Oskar Blues, Perrin Brewing and the Utah Brewers Cooperative outfit that includes the Wasatch and Squatters brands.

The story also reveals that rumors of a pending sale to beer conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev had more substance than previously believed:

According to Redner, Cigar City was in serious discussions with A-B InBev and had even signed a letter of intent with them in late 2015. In doing so, the smaller brewery had also agreed to an “exclusivity” clause that prohibited it from negotiating with other potential buyers, Redner told Brewbound. … But a potential deal fell through after A-B neglected to send a formal purchase agreement before the exclusivity period expired, Redner claims, enabling Cigar City to entertain other offers.

This news breaks two days after the brewery staged what was from all  accounts a well-organized and successful Hunahpu’s Day and beer festival.

Read the entire story here.


As this story developed through the day, other news sites added more context. Here are a few:

Good Beer Hunting: Where’s there’s smoke – Fireman Capital acquires one of Florida’s finest.

Draft: Cigar City Brewing sells to private equity firm

Official news release, via The Full Pint

Tampa Bay Business Journal: Here’s what the sale of Cigar City Brewing will mean in Tampa

Beer Street Journal: Oskar Blues acquires Cigar City Brewing

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From the South Florida craft beer scene, a flurry of news

The Beer in Florida news feed recently received a slew of reports from South Florida craft breweries in the past few days, so let’s get to it.

Due South

Mike Halker

Mike Halker

Due South Brewing Co., the brewery that opened in 2012 in a warehouse park in Boynton Beach has announced that it has acquired the space next to its current location, allowing an expansion that nearly doubles its square footage. Here’s that announcement:

Due South Brewing Co. has announced an expansion of its current facility, annexing 12,000 additional square feet of the adjacent bay.  Combined, Due South will total more than 27,000 square feet.

Open to the public since 2012, Due South has always had a production focus.  The current tap room continues to shrink as the need for more brewing space grows.  This expansion will allow for growth in both areas.

“We knew we would need more space; it just wasn’t available” states Mike Halker, founder and president of Due South.  “Finally the opportunity presented itself and we were able to acquire the bay next to us.  We’re certainly excited about continuing our relationship with the folks in Boynton and eventually expanding our brewing operations enough that we can supply all of Florida.  We’ve got some thirsty friends on the west coast we haven’t been able to take care of yet.”

The new space will be used for an indoor beer garden, a large air conditioned tap room, a dedicated area for barrel aging and additional offices.  There will also be a separate area for expansion of the new “Due South Sour Project.”

The architects are currently working on the layout and the new facility is expected to be open in early fall.

Saltwater Brewery

Saltwater Sea Cow 3From Saltwater Brewery, which a team of native Floridians opened in Delray Beach in December 2013, comes news of growth in its distribution footprint, as well as the release of another of its core brands to retail distribution in cans:

Saltwater Brewery, a microbrewery with tasting room, today announced partnerships with Florida Distributing Company and J.J. Taylor Companies, Inc., expanding distribution to Tampa, Orlando and the surrounding areas, as well as the market launch of its second canned product, Sea Cow Milk Stout.

Look for Saltwater Brewery beer on tap and in cans in the following counties:

FDC: Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole

J.J. Taylor: Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Glades, Hardee, Henry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Okeechobee, Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota

Brown Distributing: Broward, Dade, Indian River, Martin, Monroe, Palm Beach, St. Lucie

“FDC and J.J. Taylor have great reputations in the distribution arena and are well respected in the beer community,” said Bo Eaton, head of sales and co-founder of Saltwater Brewery. “Their enthusiasm for our brand has made us very excited to partner with them.”

The company also released its second canned beer, Sea Cow Milk Stout, following the launch of its Screamin’ Reels IPA in August 2015. One of the only Milk Stouts in the market available in a can, Sea Cow is characterized as dark, roasty and sweet, with 6% Alcohol By Volume and 38 IBUs.

Saltwater Brewery’s brand and lifestyle revolves around the ocean, which extends to its charitable giving.

“We look forward to working with locally based charity chapters such as The Ocean Foundation and Surfrider Foundation in the Orlando and Tampa areas,” said Chris Gove, president and co-founder.

Sea Cow Milk Stout will be available throughout Saltwater Brewery’s new and current distribution territory. The team is planning to continue expansion later this year, and will also can additional styles such as Locale, Wheat Wave and limited releases.

Funky Buddha

Funky Buddha logoAnd in the better-late-than-never category, Funky Buddha Brewery, which has its main production brewery in Oakland Park, has made public its 2016 release schedule. Judging from my Facebook feeds, the brewery’s Last Snow Coffee & Coconut Porter, which saw a release last month, excites a lot of Funky Buddha fans. Those who covet this brew might want to take a look at the “Little Buddha” series release for October.

Goodness abounds!

Funky Buddha Brewery, based in Oakland Park, has announced its 2016 release schedule. This long-awaited lineup will include a new year-round beer to add to the brewery’s portfolio of boundary-pushing craft brews, in addition to a whole year’s worth of entries in the “Little Buddha Small Batch” series.

Hop Stimulator Double IPA will join Hop Gun IPA and Floridian Hefeweizen as the third of Funky Buddha’s flagship beers. Generously hopped with Amarillo, Centennial, Citra, and Cascade hops, Hop Stimulator boasts intense passionfruit, grapefruit, orange peel, and pineapple aromas with a crisp, balanced malt body. This monstrously-hopped double (9.5%) India pale ale will make its debut on draft and in four-pack, 12 oz. bottles this April 19th with an MSRP of $11.99 per four-pack.

2016 will also see Funky Buddha grow its “Little Buddha Small Batch” series of beers. This culinary-inspired line of brews will feature such coveted and anxiously awaited beers such as Wide Awake It’s Morning (Imperial Maple Bacon Coffee Porter), Muy Bonita Apple Pie Double Brown Ale, and Don’t Tell Reece Peanut Butter Cup Ale. Available in 22oz bombers and on draft, these beers will see release in Funky Buddha’s tap room and in distribution across the state of Florida.


Funky Buddha RELEASE-CALENDAR_V2_20160215


These breweries – and many more – will be pouring this Saturday at the annual Florida Brewers Guild Craft Beer Festival, the official kickoff festival to Tampa Bay Beer Week 2016.

Brewery map south florida crop

Florida Brewery Map



Beer in Florida’s mission is to chronicle and support the thriving Florida craft beer community, but as a reminder, especially as the excesses of the holiday season lie before us: Drink responsibly. Designated drivers, hotel rooms, Uber, Lyft, and taxis are all great ideas. In fact, if you haven’t used Uber yet, you can get your first ride free (up to $15) by using the code uberBeerInFlorida when you sign up for the ride-share service.

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Motorworks Brewery lands two medals in Draft Magazine contest

Motorworks logoMotorworks Brewing in Bradenton announced today that it has won two medals in the annual Draft Magazine Best of Craft Beer Awards competition.

The magazine bestowed a silver medal on the brewery in the Spiced Beer category for its Midnight Espresso Coffee Porter, and a gold medal for V Twin Vienna Lager in that style category.

Motorworks is the only Florida brewery to have been awarded medals in this year’s competition.

The V-Twin won a bronze medal in the Vienna Lager category at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.

As a medal-winner, Motorworks Brewing will be included in a promotional advertisement in Draft Magazine’s Craft Brewers Conference issue and will be promoted on Best of Craft Beer Award’s social media outlets, in addition to being granted automatic acceptance into next year’s contest.

For a full list of the winners, click here.

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