If someone had told us at the beginning of 2020 that the world would reach a complete stand-still for the better part of 10 months all because of a global pandemic - we (like everyone else!) would’ve thought you were crazy.
This year has created unique hurdles for us - some including the fact that in-person conferences were cancelled, how we were to run production with reduced staff, and how to grow and maintain our relationships in the brewing community when visiting isn’t possible. Thankfully, we were dealt a very lucky hand where we were able to successfully grow as a business and community throughout the whole ordeal - ultimately becoming stronger!
After what has felt like 5 years since the start of 2020, we thought we’d share all the great advancements we’ve made to ensure that we can continue to offer high-quality & innovative yeast and quality control.
The 2020 Highlights
We turned Five!
Turning five meant turning over a new leaf for us - which in this case meant a whole new look! In October 2020 we launched our rebrand, new website, and eventually our brand new homebrew pouches. We wanted to embrace our identity of being fun, quirky, and bright in the industry, and our look finally reflects that. Besides, who would’ve thought that branding yeast strains would be such a difficult process?!
On top of all that, we finally wanted to make the process of ordering yeast for our pro-brewers and wholesalers a breeze. Enter our brand new online store! Now our customers can submit orders at their leisure, no matter the time (or time zone!)
No Conferences? No Problem.
With industry conferences hitting pause for the time being, we wanted to find a way to bring our expertise, products, and research findings to anyone interested. What better way than to take them online! Over the course of 2020 we created over 30 different webinars through Crowdcast (and later added to our Youtube channel), with a host of different guest speakers for people to enjoy and learn from.
Early in May 2020, we launched EscarpCon, our 3-day intensive webinar series. Covering topics like fermentation innovation, controlling flavour, & quality control, this series was a great success - one that we’re so proud to have created!
Here are a few ones that we think that you’ll love!
- Producing Kombucha in your Brewery with Alexis Wagner: https://youtu.be/5cWPdB_IW6I
- Yeast Basics Pt 1. With Nate Ferguson: https://youtu.be/1k2MoxO0cIg
- A Fireside Kveik Chat with Lars Marius Garshol: https://youtu.be/2eTl2uK-eV8
New Products Galore
A rebrand and a pandemic couldn’t stop us from creating new innovative, high quality products this year. Not only did we release 9 new additions to The Kveik Ring, but added a few game-changing additions to our line up as well. In addition to KRISPY, which quickly became one of our most popular products, check out two recent highlights:
What happens if a Saison strain and a Norwegian Kveik had a baby? Well, it’s a whole bunch of yeasty, fruity goodness. This year, we focused on putting some of our yeast through a sort of ‘hybrid boot-camp’, resulting in the first hybrid strain for Escarpment.
A rare combination of diastatic and flocculent, making it a Saison yeast that is easy to crop and repitch. You can expect an expressive fruitiness but low banana ester - giving a lot of great brewing opportunities to saison fans.
Want to learn more about the process? Check out our blog post Yeast Fusion: The Story of JÖTUNN.
For years, we had been leading our customers to different options for nutrient for their yeast. Like most of our products, this was a problem that brewers were asking us to solve, so we worked diligently to offer an in-house solution. As with pretty much every story we tell about our yeasts, we find them to be distinct characters with their own wants and needs. Some of our yeasts respond really well to the right amount of vitamins. Some really need a bump of magnesium to perform well in high gravity fermentations. Some need a little bit of extra FAN to be their best yeasty selves.
Check out our blog post Turbo Charge Your Ferments with Yeast Lightning for more!
Production: A Constant Evolution
With so many changes this year, we made some amazing leaps forward in our production capabilities. After all, what are we without production!?
- Kept production running with split shifts and a reduced staff during the first few months of the pandemic
- Opened new facility, completed renovations at 8 Smith
- Increased production capacity by 40%
- Changed our wort production method reducing processing times by up to ⅓ and reducing water usage by 40%
Packaged and sold over 10,000 homebrew pouches
Growing and Supporting our Community
One of our main pillars of our identity at Escarpment Labs is philanthropy and supporting our community. This year came with unprecedented hardships from the pandemic to the passionate message of justice and empathy marked by the Black Lives Matter movement around the world.
To show our support with more than just words, we have chosen to donate approximately $7,000 to a variety of important causes and charities that have impacted our community. These organizations and community partners include: ARCH, Black Health Alliance, Black Legal Action Centre, Native Women's Association of Canada, Guelph Food Bank, and among others.
As always, we’ve got exciting new research & product opportunities on the horizon. We’ve got some exciting blog posts planned for some of the research conducted by this year’s crop of awesome co-op students (fast DNA extraction from beer without the crazy high cost, anyone?) - so be sure to be on the look out for that coming very soon! We've also struck gold repeatedly this year in our wild yeast capture program, and you should see the results of that released in 2021.
In recent months, we’ve started experimenting with food ferments with our staff lunches, which (besides being outrageously delicious) have shown plenty of new applications we can be researching. We hope to continue sharing those details with you as we learn more! In the meantime, check out our Koji Brisket Sandwich, and Sourdough posts on our blog.
It’s been a hell of a crazy year, but we’re so thankful that you have been on this ride with us. We’ll continue to help brewers around the world make the beers that they want to make - no matter the wacky request.
Thank YOU for an interesting (but successful!) 2020 - and here’s to five more years of moving fermentation forward!