Florida has a unique climate unlike that of the rest of the United States. We tend to skip the in-between seasons of Spring and Fall. It’s hot 8 months out of the year, then it cools off just a little bit. We do have bone-chillingly cold days, but those are rare.
That makes it a great place to grow some hops!
Central Florida Hops is relatively new to Orlando, but no stranger to the craft beer scene around here. After planting my own baby hop plants, I wanted to know where they came from. Much to my surprise, mindlessly scrolling through my Instagram feed one morning, I saw that it was harvest time at the farm. My curiosity drove me to the little town of Zellwood to finally discover where the literal roots of Orlando’s future beer comes from.
The farm is spread out over just a quarter of an acre at the moment, where rows of tall, climbing bines of Cascade hops try to stretch towards the sun. Walking through the rows of gently flowing wisps of leaves, I was in awe. In between each gentle wave, through the shaded leaves, were tiny, delicate green cones of hops. They were beautiful!
The art of growing hops in Florida is young. It’s new and not too many people around here are familiar with it. Luckily, our sub-tropical climate provides the perfect recipe to have the ability to grow hops all year long, making it possible to harvest several times a year! I have always wondered what it takes to grow hops. In what environments are they most successfully grown? What do they look and feel like? How much water and sun do they need?
Something I also wondered was just how someone gets into the hop business. What made the people at Central Florida Hops want to grow, well… hops?
So, I asked them! They told me they became inspired by the local craft beer scene here in Orlando. They already grow a variety of other plants and they’re also looking to grow some vegetables. Growing hops presented a challenge and provides a fun reward (beer!) that their other plants don’t offer. The people at Central Florida Hops have also dabbled in home brewing and even plan to brew with their own homegrown hops. How cool is that?!
Speaking of home brewing, I plan to use most of my own hops that I picked fresh off the bine that day to make something tasty. Perhaps, a citrusy pale ale? I stuck my hops in the freezer immediately to preserve them until I’m ready to brew (shouldn’t be too long from now). It’s hard to brew with such a busy schedule! But I absolutely CANNOT wait to give home brewing another try! I have been thinking about it for the past couple of months and I’m still trying to figure out a style with a fun twist.
I’m looking forward to the future of this hop farm that is in my very own backyard. Orlando is and always will be my home! I have lived here my whole life. I love that the craft beer community is digging its roots deeper into the soil and building such a strong foundation for what’s yet to come.
Now that I have seen where these hops come from & shook the hands that helped them grow and blossom into these magical little flowers that flavor our beloved beer, I have a whole new appreciation for my bubbly ales.
Have you been to a hop farm? Have you ever brewed with fresh hops? I’d love to hear about your experiences! Tell me about them in the comments below and if you have any suggestions for home brewing or styles to brew with fresh cascade hops, let me know!