I just read an article about how hops are now being produced in Florida. The article emphasized the fact that nobody believed it could ever happen. I’m sure the haters did not mean that hops could not grow in Florida, but rather that they should not grow there. Of course, hops can grow in Florida … Hops are like weeds! If you give them a little dirt, water and sunshine they will grow. You don’t even need the dirt with hydroponics if you want to get technical about it. The challenge to growing them commercially is to maximize yields every year while producing a consistent quality and all at a competitive price. For better or worse, with today’s hop varieties, that is not likely to happen in Florida. That’s not to say it’s not possible with a good variety development program and about 20-30 years of R&D.
The author highlighted how amazing it was that there are now Florida grown hops and what a great idea it was for the Florida department of Agriculture to invest $158,000 into this two-year project. A little later, however, the author mentioned commercial viability and how, so far, they are falling short of that goal. That is the real issue, isn’t it? Hops would grow on Mars if somebody wanted to invest the time and money to get them there. By the way Elon, if you’re interested in taking hop roots to Mars, I know a guy. At the end of the day, commercial viability is the driving force in the expansion of hops around the solar system. I am sure that if we reach Mars somebody will explore the potential of producing hops there too. As soon as there are people on Mars, somebody will decide they want a local beer. It will be cheaper and more realistic to produce it using locally grown ingredients than to ship hop pellets all that way. That’s not the case in Florida. Funny as it sounds, it actually might make more sense for Elon Musk to plant hop roots on Mars than to produce them commercially in Florida. Despite the inevitably poor yields of Martian hops, shipping hop pellets to Mars would be ridiculously expensive.
Consistency and quality are important parts of the commercial viability discussion, but the elephant in the room will always be cost. Government grants will run out long before anybody has a chance to perfect their growing practices. It’s wonderful that there is so much passion in the craft beer and hop industries that people are exploring where the boundaries of growing hops really are. I’m sure we’ll see a small batch seasonal Florida IPA with locally grown hops soon. Who knows … Maybe we’ll even see a Martian Porter someday!