Nov 4, 2022 - Food and Drink

Research aims to make Arkansas hops a reality for local brewers

Illustration of a pattern of hops.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture researchers are working with local breweries to see if they will consider using hops grown in the state for their beer.

What happened: The three-year research project intended to see if hops worthy of beer can be grown on a commercial scale in Arkansas wrapped up last year.

  • Now, the Division of Agriculture is working with Ivory Bill Brewing Company in Siloam Springs, Prestonrose Farm and Brewing Company in Paris and Stone's Throw Brewing in Little Rock to make beer using local hops to see whether customers enjoy it.
  • The experiment was a collaboration between Amanda McWhirt, professor in the horticulture department, and Renee Threlfall, horticulture post-harvest and processing research scientist in the food science department. McWhirt tells Axios they chose to tackle this project because of the growing brewing industry in the state.
  • The hops grown as part of this effort were mostly at the Fruit Research Station in Clarksville.

Why it matters: If Arkansas growers are interested in harvesting hops, this would set the stage for giving brewers seeking local ingredients more options and possibly flavors that are unique to Arkansas, McWhirt says.

  • The research found it is "definitely possible" to grow hops in the state, and scientists are looking at ways to grow hops more efficiently so the industry can expand, she says.

Context: While hops grow across the U.S., including Arkansas, most used for beer production are grown in Washington state, Oregon and Michigan, McWhirt says. The long day lengths during summertime are conducive to producing more cones on the hops.

What they're saying: "Because grape growers are already set up where they have some trellises and they have the irrigation potentially, they can modify that set up and start growing a small amount of hops to diversity the product they're offering and also supply something kind of unique to the local brewery industry," she says.

What's next: Ivory Bill, 516 E. Main St. in Siloam Springs, will host a public event at 7pm Saturday to release a pale ale made with hops grown at the experiment station's Fruit Research Station.

  • The team plans to work with additional brewers next year, McWhirt says.
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