Posted November 12, 2015

Agri-Food Innovation Award recognizes Ontario brewery suppliers

Cambridge, ON – The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs this week announced four beer industry-oriented Ontario agri-food business were among recipients of The Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.

The award recognizes and celebrates the agri-food producers, processors, organizations and rural communities helping strengthen Ontario communities, support a sustainable environment, create jobs and boost the economy.

Bighead Hops – Meaford

Ontario-grown hops seem like the natural choice for the province’s craft breweries. There’s just one problem. Most breweries are set up for pelletized hops, but the price tag of commercial pellet mills is well beyond the budget of small-scale hops producers. That’s where one Meaford hops grower got creative. Bighead Hops banded together with six other producers to form a co-op and adapt a pelletizer to their specific needs and scale. Bighead put the mill into operation in 2014, producing more than 3,000 kilograms of pelletized hops. A few tweaks this year have helped speed up the processing time by nearly 50 per cent. Breweries and cideries are snapping up the hops, giving co-op members the dollars they need to plant even more acres of Ontario hops.

Clear Valley Hops – Collingwood

Clear Valley Hops claims to supply the freshest hops in the world, and they go to great lengths to deliver on that promise. As soon as the hops are harvested, they are transferred to a 40-foot-high oast house for low-heat drying, preserving their flavour-rich essential oils. Once the hops are dried, Clear Valley doesn’t waste time baling them – instead they go straight to pelleting. Finally, they are packed in material that blocks harmful oxygen and ultraviolet rays, flushed with nitrogen and flash-frozen. The entire process, from harvest to freezing, takes just 24 hours. Laurie Thatcher-Craig and John Craig have poured more than $1.3 million into their enterprise, but the investment is paying off with numerous long-term brewery contracts. As their customers have discovered, fresher is clearly better.

Escarpment Laboratories – Guelph

You can’t make beer without yeast – the microscopic beasties that create both the alcohol and much of the flavour in your favourite brew. Until recently, however, Ontario’s craft breweries had to rely on yeast. Not anymore. Guelph’s Escarpment Laboratories now offers a local supply of yeasts, from tried-and-true classics to new, made-in-Ontario strains like “Wild Thing”: ale yeast isolated from a local apple orchard. Escarpment Laboratories will even work with breweries to develop custom blends for truly unique flavours. Currently, the company sells 20 different strains and blends, with several hundred more in development. To meet demand, Escarpment Laboratories is planning to increase its production capacity 10-fold in the coming years, helping the province’s breweries produce 100 per cent local beer.

Harvest Hop & Malt – Guelph

Harvest Hop + Malt is thinking small. And that could have a big impact on Ontario craft breweries, distilleries, bakeries and grain farmers. Most malting equipment is designed for large-scale operations, with a price tag to match. However, this Guelph enterprise – the province’s first micro-maltery – has designed an affordable, single-vessel system for malting grains that are destined for beer, liquor, baked goods or animal feed. The system processes one tonne of grain at a time, runs on household water and power and can fit through an eight-by-eight-foot doorway. And at a price tag under $200,000, this “uni-malter” lies within the reach of small-scale enterprises. Once commercial production begins, brewmasters across the province can raise a glass to Ontario-grown, Ontario-malted grains.

Descriptions via Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

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