Escarpment Laboratories

Genomics increase local brewers’ profitability & support growth of Ontario suppliers

December 12, 2018

The total economic impact of small breweries in Ontario is estimated to be approximately $1.4 Billion (2017) and the sector continues to grow according to the Ontario Craft Brewers Association. Some yeasts, which are a key ingredient in craft beer, slow fermentation which can result in losses for brewers. Escarpment Laboratories, a Guelph-based yeast supplier for craft brewers, is aiming to change this.

Working closely with their clients, Escarpment continues to innovate to enhance existing products and to bring new yeast blends to their customers. With a commitment to ongoing product development, Escarpment is working with a University of Guelph (U of G) research team to address mutations in the yeast genome that cause problems during fermentation in IPA beer. Their most popular yeast strain, used for its IPA flavour profile, is challenging to reuse for brewers (most yeast is reused 8-15 times). However, brewers continue to use this yeast due to the unique flavour profiles in the creation of IPA, the most popular style of craft beer. It’s also in high demand for the production of “hop-forward” beers that are in popular with craft beer consumers. The project team is utilizing a series of ‘omics tools to track, better understand and have a yeast with more consistent fermentation to provide an improved product for their customers.

Working with Dr. van der Merwe at U of G, the team is applying genome sequencing and metabolomics analysis to verify and better understand gene mutations causing slowed fermentation. This information will enable them to then develop nutrient supplements and fermentation conditions that reduce inconsistencies in beer production while ensuring that the flavour profile of beer is maintained.

As noted in OG’s report, Genomics for Agriculture & Agri-Food: Ontario’s Strategic Opportunity, fermentation is highlighted under one of six key recommendations to build Ontario’s strengths and opportunities using genomics research and innovation. This Ontario Genomics Seed Project provides needed support for a young business in Ontario’s growing food and beverage industry to help strengthen the company’s position for follow-on funding, translation of outcomes and revenue generation.