Posted February 8, 2015

Feature: Ontario’s homegrown yeast wranglers

A pair of microbiology grads from the University of Guelph are taking their startup – Escarpment Laboratories – live early this year in Ontario.

yeast1The team – Angus Ross and Richard Preiss, both homebrewers and microbiogists – have been banking yeast strains from their homebrewing projects since early 2014 to a now sizeable collection.

“We realized that we were sitting on a great opportunity: we had a big strain collection, we had the training to manage a yeast lab, and there was little competition in Canada to serve the booming craft beer industry, ” says Angust Ross.

The two received backing from the University of Guelph’s Centre for Business and Social Entrepreneurship (CBaSE) providing business instruction and funding.

“The past six months or so have been filled with startup fund applications, strain validation, startup business crash courses, and our day jobs as university researchers,” adds Ross. “We’ve been working closely with brewers on strain validation, doing numerous collaboration brews with local microbreweries to make sure we have a quality product.”

yeast2Ross and Preiss were able to isolate a handful of wild Ontario yeasts from a local apple orchard last fall, with the help of a local cider maker and professional brewer.

“So now we have Ontario yeast, and as far as we know we’re the only people looking to commercialize yeast isolated in Ontario. There are big implications here for the development of an Ontario beer terroir,” they say.

They’re also doing a lot of work with Brettanomyces  and other bug strains and blends.

Escarpment Labs has an arrangement in place with Guelph’s Wellington Brewery allowing them to operate our of Wellington’s lab in exchange for yeast and quality control services.

They want to ensure their process is scaleable from the half-hectolitre pitch sizes they’re managaing now to full 40-100 hectolitre applications.

Escarpment Labs is targeting a May 2015 launch.


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