Investing in Brewing Science Knowledge

At Escarpment Labs, we have made knowledge a core value of our organization. This means a lot of different things. It means we hire and train people that are highly curious about fermentation and eager to learn more. It means we have the internal knowledge to help our customers with their problems. It also means we allocate resources to new research when we find a problem that no one has answered yet.

Why does Escarpment invest in creating new fermentation knowledge?

Research is not cheap. We spend a significant portion of our annual budget on research. This includes internal R&D staff and projects, as well as helping pay for projects at universities and research institutes.

So, why do we invest in new knowledge? Because it's important to us. One of our central goals as a company is to create new fermentation knowledge and make it accessible so that brewers can make better beer and innovate. We're also impatient and we want to poke at the edges of brewing science and see what's there before other folks get there.

How do we do it?

Most research projects at Escarpment start with a big problem or a big question.

It might look something like:

"Why are some brewers having flocculation issues with this yeast?"

Or, "What the heck are these kveik yeasts? Will people even care?" (this was a naïve question. It was 2017 and we had no idea what was about to happen).

We use R&D internally to solve customer problems and create new products.

Often, a project accomplishes both. Lacto Blend 2.0, Hydra, JÖTUNN, and Yeast Lightning are all a result of this framework. Many more research projects have helped us learn more intricate details about the yeast strains we grow. Almost everyone on our team contributes to research, at all levels - from Co-op student to seasoned PhD.

We use external academic collaborations that play to our partner's strengths. To date, we've worked with institutes including University of Guelph, University of Waterloo, and VTT Finland. These projects have goals combining academic interests (big questions) and commercial interests (helping brewers), creating something greater than the sum of its parts.

What research has Escarpment published recently?

OK, we've talked the talk, now let's walk the walk.

Here are some recent Escarpment-related research projects that are published or under peer-review:

Open-Source PCR and Agar-Based Methods for Cost-Effective Detection of Diastatic Yeast

Yeast agar plates.

Authors: Sarah Traynor, Rona Zhou, Nautica Spence, and Richard Preiss. Published in MBAA Technical Quarterly

  • The first 100% Escarpment Labs peer-reviewed paper!
  • Diastatic yeast remains a major concern for beer contamination, resulting in over-carbonation and bursting cans.
  • Annoyed by the high per-sample cost of most commercial PCR solutions for detecting diastatic yeast, our team tested some open-source approaches for detecting diastaticus with PCR. This method could be used with low-cost equipment such as the MiniPCR thermocycler and help small breweries who can't afford more expensive (but more sensitive) qPCR devices.
  • We built off of some of the recent work on detecting diastaticus on agar and developed a new agar medium called CSSM (copper sulfate starch medium) that detects diastatic yeasts while eliminating false positives.

Not a MBAA member? Download the paper here

Kveik brewing yeasts demonstrate wide flexibility in beer fermentation temperature and flavour metabolite production and exhibit enhanced trehalose accumulation

Plot of fermentation curves

Authors: Barret Foster, Caroline Tyrawa, Emine Ozsahin, Mark Lubberts, Kristoffer Krogerus, Richard Preiss, George van der Merwe

Preprint: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.07.26.453768v1 (this paper is not yet peer-reviewed)

  • In partnership with George van der Merwe at the University of Guelph, we continue to dig into the science of kveik.
  • Kveik were able to complete fermentation anywhere from 12ºC (54ºF) up to 42ºC (108ºF).
  • Kveik flavour metabolites are highly responsive to temperature - so one yeast can present very different flavour profiles depending on temperature.
  • Kveik produces and retains a lot of trehalose. This may explain their high-temperature tolerance, fast fermentation, and drying tolerance.
  • This comes at a tradeoff: kveik's retention of trehalose in the cell might also keep maltotriose out, which could explain why kveik tend to not be very high attenuators and why the farmhouse brewers mash for a long time.
  • Lars Marius Garshol wrote a better summary of the paper than I ever could, you should just read his

Efficient breeding of industrial brewing yeast strains using CRISPR/Cas9-aided mating-type switching

Image of yeast breeding scheme.

Authors: Kristoffer Krogerus, Eugene Fletcher, Nils Rettberg, Brian Gibson, Richard Preiss

Preprint: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.07.05.450511v1 (this paper is not yet peer-reviewed)

  • We worked with VTT Finland (Brian Gibson, Kristoffer Krogerus) to test a new method of breeding brewing yeasts, since they are often really tricky to breed. 
  • CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing was used to make yeasts with stable mating types (kind of like sex chromosomes), which we then bred to try to make yeasts that are better at releasing volatile thiols from bound precursors in the hops.
  • Success! Our partners word it modestly in the paper, but we succeeded in generating some really interesting strains with faster fermentation than the parents (hybrid vigor) as well as enhanced thiol aroma release.
  • This means these hybrid yeasts have the potential to help brewers unlock more aroma from hops.
  • We're currently putting these yeasts through their paces in repitching and scale-up trials.

 

We are always looking to explore new or intriguing areas of fermentation, so if you're a fermentation-curious academic and interested in collaborating with us, drop us a line