‘Bitter Is Better’ for Craft Beer Enthusiasts

UF/IFAS Researchers Try Their Hand at 22 Hops Varieties 

UF/IFAS correspondent


If you hopped over to the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center and tasted the craft beer made from hops grown by scientists at the University of Florida, you’d notice it’s a little bitter, but researchers and brewers say that’s just what they want.


UF scientists recently showed the latest research results from their hops studies. Craft beer lovers want to know about taste and aroma, and UF/IFAS researchers see an increase in alpha acid in the hops they grow. That acid indicates bitterness.


“Brewers need to know the alpha acid content of hops to determine how much hops to use, according to the bitterness level they like to achieve,” says Shinsuke Agehara, an assistant professor of horticultural sciences. “Brewers also need to know the essential oil content and profile to create desirable aroma intensity and profile in the beer. Hop quality data are important for brewers to formulate a recipe, including how much hops to use, blending with other varieties of hops, boiling time and when to add hops during the brewing process.”


Zhanao Deng, a UF/IFAS professor of environmental horticulture, also tries to grow hops at the center. He has been testing 22 hops varieties in hopes they can grow in Florida.


Deng has identified new types of “Cascade” that can produce larger, heavier cones with a stronger aroma than common “Cascade,” one of the hop varieties often used by brewers.


Brewers in the Tampa Bay region like what they taste in beer made from “Cascade” hops.


“The pale ale brewed with “Cascade” hops harvested from our hopyard has unique flavors,” says Agehara. “Typically, ‘Cascade’ is known to have a classic citrus aroma, but the beer brewed with our ‘Cascade’ had notes of cantaloupe and honeydew with a hint of ripe citrus.”


Three other varieties, “Comet,” “Nugget” and “Zeus,” have produced hop cones with higher alpha acids, higher essential oil contents, and stronger aroma. These varieties may be good candidates for further larger-scale testing, Deng says.


Florida has 368 craft breweries, and many are in the Tampa Bay region. Growing interest in craft beer spurred the Hillsborough County Economic Council to seek a partnership with the Gulf Coast REC about six years ago.


“Craft beers are well-known for their diverse styles and flavors, which is also one of the main attributes that attract consumers,” Deng says. “Brewers commonly use multiple hop varieties to create unique beer flavors.”

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