Pearson, a 1999 graduate of Apopka High School, has experimented with growing hops in Florida for five years. It started as a hobby and evolved into his research program.

Limited edition beer made with Florida Hops

Apopka is well known for the great outdoors and great barbecue. Now it also has a great beer with a really great name.

Brian Pearson, an assistant professor with the University of Florida IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, is partnering with First Magnitude Brewing Company in Gainesville to produce a brand new, limited-edition beer made from hops that Pearson grew right here at the IFAS Center.

Apopka Hop Pale Ale is the first-ever beer to be packaged with the label “Fresh from Florida, Made with Florida Hops.” A batch of the tasty new brew will make an initial offering of 150 bottles plus enough to have on tap for a special beer release event next week.

Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer will be among the special guests of honor at the release party on Thursday, April 6, at the First Magnitude Brewing Company in Gainesville. “I am really excited,” said Pearson, who also will taste the new beer for the first time.

Pearson, a 1999 graduate from Apopka High School, has experimented with growing hops in Florida for five years. It started as a hobby and evolved into his research program.

Pearson completed his first successful trial in 2012, and since the public caught wind of his research early last year, he receives two to three phone calls a day from citrus growers. “They want more information on the possibility of diversifying their crops with hops, and want to tour my production facility,” Pearson said.

His EDIS document introducing hops as a new specialty crop in
Florida has received more than 7,600 downloads, and 115,000 people viewed the online material his team shared last year on Facebook and Twitter.

His research team received a two-year, $158,000 grant from the USDA that expires at the end of 2017, so they are pursuing additional funding sources. “Getting research dollars to expeditiously continue this effort is the missing piece right now,” he said.

Pearson, who brews his own batches of beer at home, reached out recently to Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services (FDACS) and Brewers at First Magnitude Brewing to create a distinct beer from his Apopka-grown hops. He delivered about 3 and a half pounds of whole hops – something new for First Magnitude, which typically uses pellets processed from hops.

Head brewer John Denny said he is pleased how the first batch came out: “It is an American pale ale with a biscuit malt character. It also has a citrus character, and a unique earthy quality as well.”

Denny said he researched Apopka online to come up with the beer’s name and label. First Magnitude applied the new labels to the bottles on Friday. The beer is ready to bottle for Thursday’s special beer release event.

To find out more About Pearson’s hop research, IFAS will host an upcoming tour on Wednesday, May 10. Hop growers, enthusiast, home brewers, craft brewers, and craft beer drinkers are invited to hear from research and extension agents working hands-on with Florida grown hops.

The Florida Hops Consortium is Florida’s premier collaborative group of scientists, producers, horticulturists, and premium craft brewers developing high-quality locally-grown Florida hops and is an established, research-led program aimed at examining and developing the unique properties of Florida-grown hops.

The tour begins promptly at 10 am May 10th in room 185 of the Administration Building, 2725 South Binion Road.

Space is limited. Register by May 7th at:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ufifas-mid-florida-research-an…

Mary Anne Sanders from the University of Florida contributed to this report. Photos courtesy of Brian Pearson and John Denny.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Good, it is a pale ale. I really do not like dark beer. To me, dark beer tastes just like coffee and beer mixed…..ugh.

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