ONRP3: Supporting Ontario craft brewers with beer yeast diversity

Craft beer consumers are continually looking for product diversity. This is driving the industry to increase production efficiency and innovate their production processes.  

George van der Merwe, a researcher from University of Guelph, and Richard Preiss, Co-founder from Escarpment Laboratories, are collaborating on a project to provide Ontario craft brewers with database information to drive production efficiency and product consistency, which will ultimately decrease production costs and increase profitability.

The yeasts used in craft beer are the heart of the beer production. They are also one of the main tools that brewers incorporate into their production process to create product diversity. Brewers tend to use standard production parameters, such as fermentation temperature and yeast nutrient management strategies, to generate beers with specific flavour profiles. A lack of understanding around the optimal production parameters will often lead to inconsistencies in beer quality, resulting in financial losses for the brewer.

With funding from the ON-RP3 initiative, the UofG/Escarpment research team will determine the genetic composition of 40 commonly used and novel beer yeast strains to gain insight into its capacity to complete fermentations efficiently and to produce certain flavour compounds.

Data is being compiled and integrated into a publicly accessible Beer Yeast Performance Database for brewers to consult when designing their brewing strategies. This data will help drive innovation and consistency in beer production and build a robust Ontario craft brewing sector that can compete in today’s beer market.

One year into the project, the research team has completed initial fermentation trials. They  have compiled strain-specific data to assist both brewers and researchers with the various capabilities and restrictions of specific yeast strains. Moving ahead they will be looking for patterns and correlations in their data, new insights about how beer yeast works and ultimately help brewers make better beer.

According to Richard Preiss, “Through this study we have learned a lot about our yeasts, which makes it easier to give advice to brewers. Going forward we can sequence those yeasts and try to predict their behaviours and now that we know how some of them behave, we can also combine genetic information with beer fermentation information and try to really understand what makes the yeast tick.”

To learn more about the these initial results and the value to Ontario Craft brewers, you can view Escarpment Labs YouTube talk “Beer Yeast Flavour Diversity with Richard Preiss”.

ON-RP3 is a collaborative initiative between the Agricultural Adaptation Council, Ontario Genomics, and the Government of Canada through Genome Canada.