Showcasing Ontario Hops: Escarpment Labs Internal Homebrew Competition

September may mean that the warm days of summer are coming to an end, but it also means one important event for brewers: hop harvest time. The trellises are full of beautiful hop cones, in turn bringing a renewed sense of inspiration for brewers turning their attention to their tap lists for the year to come. 

Hops play such a key component of a beer's aroma and flavour; and, of course, add bitterness (among other things!). We had to think — how can we best utilize our yeast strains to highlight the unique characteristics of hops, especially locally grown Ontario hops? 

The Competition Begins

The perfect opportunity presented itself with our Summer Internal Homebrew Competition, where our staff grouped into teams and brewed a beer exclusively using Ontario hops, with the goal of making the hops the star of the brew. The rules were as follows:

  1. Brew with discretion. This competition will be blind! Sensory tastings were held at both facilities.
  2. Follow the Beer Targets below. This will help keep the competition blind
    • The beer must be relatively pale (4-15)
    • Make sure your beer is hop forward to showcase your Ontario hop choice
    • Target ABV is between 4-8%
  3. All yeast are fair game
  4. Beer will be judged on tastiest display of Ontario hops

Our competition organizers, Hana Knill (Data Scientist & Production Specialist) and Shelley Beirnes (Account Manager), had the incredible task of tracking down a variety of Ontario producers for our participants to choose from — and there was no shortage of great options to choose from. Participants had the choice of using:

The Blind Sensory Test

By mid-August, our 6 participating teams had their finished products packaged and ready to go for our sensory testing that was held at both facilities. Each beer was blindly tasted by our peers, and the final score was an amalgamation of the scores provided to an online survey from two categories; overall taste and how well the beer showcases Ontario hops (rating out of 5).

By the end of the day, we had our winners! 

Name Style Members Yeast Hops Score
1 The Continental Grapefruit IPA Camille, Krista, Attilio, Luisa House Ale (EL-D1) Bulldog (Comet) and Tavistock Hop Co. (Centennial, Cascade, Triple Perle) 4.14
2 One Another Oat Pale Ale Mo & Drew Arset Kveik Blend Triple Perle & Michigan Cooper 4.11
3 Friend of the Devil American Pale Ale Tomas & Adam Thiol Libre Chinook and dry hopped with Cascade & Comet 3.75
4 1000 Thiols Session Pale Ale Richard Thiol Libre Cascade (Tavistock) 3.03
5 GPA Pale Ale Chris Waterton, Nick, Joseph Thiol Libre Bertwell & Triple Pearl Hops 2.86
6 Summer of 69 oz   Pale Ale Shelley Hydra Backroads Centennial, Bulldog Triumph, Tavistock Cascade 2.81

As you can see from the final scores, it was a very close competition with some great hop forward choices (and trust us, we're really tough critics).

Some teams went with the obvious choice (and current favourite strain!) of Thiol Libre — a hybrid engineered with the thiol compound 3-MHA and others to use biotransformation to encourage enhanced guava and passionfruit aromas from your hops.

Other choices included Arset Kveik Blend, which is similar to Hornindal (an incredibly versatile Kveik yeast) but has a broad temperature range, and another hybrid in Hydra, a genetic hybrid of two of our favourite strains (Cerberus x Vermont) that offers lower attenuation (65-72%) for a more juicy flavour coupled with strong mango and citrus aromatics.

All of these were great choices when it comes to pulling the natural highlights of the hops, really letting their nuances sing.

The gold medal beer is a delicious Grapefruit IPA named The Continental made by Luisa, Krista, Camille and Attilio using our active dry yeast, House Ale (EL-D1). Our staff reacted enthusiastically to this entry, with feedback like:


"Fruity, light and perfectly hoppy, easy sipper"
"Very crushable, very dangerous"


Curious what they did to elicit such high praise?

We went straight to the winning team to learn more about their offering, including their recipe and their secret to success!
The Winning Team L-R: Harvesting Lead Camille, Lab Manager Luisa, Lab Technician Krista (Missing: Lab Technician Attilio)

Why did you choose House Ale as your yeast?

House Ale was used for a clean, crisp, and wicked fast ferment. It is great for allowing the hops to shine through with the notes intended by the growers. Then we dry hopped mid-ferment to aid in small amounts of biotransformation.

Why did you choose the hops that you chose?

Hops used were from Bulldog (Comet) and Tavistock Hop Co. (Centennial, Cascade, Triple Pearl). Chosen to generate crisp citrusy aroma and flavours, then heightened by a small dry hop of grapefruit zest along with the hops. IPA style was punchy with bitter notes, but harnessing the fresh aroma of zesty hops.

Key takeaways from the competition?

Always brew with friends.

If you're looking to see more about how this award winning brew came together, check out the full recipe below.

The Continental | Grapefruit IPA, 6.2%

American IPA by Krista, Camille, Attilio, & Luisa
Type: All Grain

IBU: 40 (Tinseth)
BU/GU: 0.7
Colour: 17 EBC
Carbonation: 2.4 CO2-vol

Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.052
Original Gravity: 1.058
Final Gravity: 1.011

Fermentables (6.25 kg)
5 kg - 2-Row Malt  3.7 EBC (80%)
1 kg - Carapils 2.6 EBC (16%)
250 g - Caramel/Crystal Malt 215 EBC 4%

Hops (45 g)
60 min - 30 g- Centennial (Tavistock) - 11.8% (37 IBU)

Hop Stand
60 min hopstand @ 80°C
60 min - 5 g - Cascade (Tavistock) - 7.9% (1 IBU)
60 min - 5 g - Comet (Bulldog) - 9.3% (1 IBU)
60 min - 5 g - Triple Perle (Tavistock) - 8.7% (1 IBU)

Mash - 2.3 g - Calcium Chloride (CaC12)
Mash - 2.3 g - Epsom Salt (MgS04)
Mash - 2.37 g - Gypsum (CaS04)
Sparge - 1.1 g - Calcium Chloride (CaC12)
Sparge - 1.1 g - Epsom Salt (MgS04)
Sparge - 1.13 g - Gypsum (CaS04)

1 pkg - Escarpment Labs House Ale (EL-D1)

Batch Size: 23 L
Boil Size: 28 L
Post-Boil Vol: 25 L

Mash Water: 22.25 L 
Sparge Water: 10.63 L
Boil Time: 60 minutes
Total Water: 32.88 L

Brewhouse Efficiency: 72%
Mash Efficiency: 75.1%

Mash Profile:
High fermentability
67°C - 60 min - Temperature

Fermentation Profile:
20°C - 14 days - Primary

Water Profile
Distilled Water (Hoppy Lite)
Ca 53 Mg 10 Na 0 Cl 50 S0 100

SO/C1 ratio: 2
Mash pH: 5.52


This isn't the end of this exploration! We're constantly looking to help brewers get the most out of their hop selections for high quality products, and that means lots of future test brews and experiments depending on the harvests of any given season.

Yeast is your hardest working employee, and your brewery may only be touching the surface of its potential — for any yeast, flavour, efficiency, or hop related questions with your brew, we're always available to chat at

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published