Ricardo Irivarren sounds like a proud parent raving about their child’s success when he tells us about his latest professional endeavours.
Miski Brewing is proud to be certified gluten-free, organic, vegan and kosher – the first beer to do this in North America.
It’s the sister company of Miski Organics, which originated in 2016 and brought super foods that are organic, gluten-free, non-GMO and vegan from Peru and Mexico to the Canadian market.
Quinoa has always been the highlight of Miski’s product line and Ricardo always wondered, what else could they do with it?
As a passionate beer enthusiast, Ricardo first tried “quinoa beer” in 2018. Intrigued, he brought a few bottles home and wanted to do more research on this type of product. He recognized a lack of options for gluten-free beer in the market and saw an opportunity to offer a sustainable, clean beer with exceptional taste. In 2019, he reached out to Niagara College’s Food & Beverage Innovation Centre (FBIC).
Already a previous client with FBIC – the team had already worked on Miski Organics products like their vegan pancake mix and a Maca Cacao Blend – Ricardo knew the team would be able to help him bring his dream into reality.
Turns out, the beer he tried in 2018 was just a regular beer with 10 per cent quinoa in it, a marketing ploy but not truly a gluten-free quinoa beer. Once Ricardo learned that, the light bulbs went off and the opportunity, and in some ways the challenge, of figuring out how to get a beer made from 100 per cent quinoa began.
To add to the innovation challenge, Ricardo asked the FBIC team, led by Ana Cristina Vega-Lugo, PhD, Scientific Manager, and Adrian Popowycz, Research Lead, if they could create this beer with organic quinoa, so they could have a certified organic product as well.
The FBIC team tried various ways to make this product work over a span of two years from 2019 to 2021.
“They were able to find a way to produce alcohol using the organic quinoa grain, and that was the first big step,” said Ricardo.
Ricardo and the FBIC team chose a recipe out of a line-up of prototypes and landed on the option that tasted and looked like a regular beer.
Once that was chosen, the question became one of scaling up.
It was a two-prong approach. The FBIC team worked on developing bigger batches of the recipe to prove that it could be done, and Ricardo worked on getting equipment required for scaling-up.
The original plan was that with the prototype and recipe in hand, Miski Brewing could find another company to handle the brewing for them and scale up the business.
Ricardo and the FBIC team quickly realized that wouldn’t be possible because other breweries are not gluten-free certified and organic facilities, and they didn’t want to share their unique recipe with just anyone.
“Working with the College was crucial because they were the first ones to encourage us to dream. They took on the challenges I gave them and have really helped us to create the product we have right now. They’re a great part of our story.”
– Ricardo Irivarren, CEO / Owner, Miski Brewing
They had the product, a good prototype recipe and a potential market but Ricardo had a key decision to make – was he was really going to create a full-blown brewery company and develop his own product?
Fast forward to present day and Miski Brewing, an innovative craft brewery, has entered the Barrie craft brew market with their unique certified organic, keto-friendly, gluten-free beer made from quinoa, which caters to the growing demand for healthier and diverse beer options.
Crafted with passion and innovation, their Ancestral Ale is a pioneer product in the world of all-quinoa-based beers and offers a refreshing twist on traditional beer recipes with its floral aromas and citrus notes. Miski also now has three more recipes set to launch in the following months.
Their story is deeply rooted in an appreciation for quinoa and the culture of the Incas in the Andes Mountains of Peru.
“It’s a groundbreaking project. The process, the standards, the way we developed the recipe is all unique,” said Ricardo. “Working with the College was crucial because they were the first ones to encourage us to dream. They took on the challenges I gave them and have really helped us to create the product we have right now. They’re a great part of our story,” he added.
He also stressed that Miski Brewing is not just a business, but rather a group of close friends and family members who share a common vision: to make a difference and push boundaries.
This family vibe is clear in the fact that head brewer Daniel Fonseca and operations manager Rodrigo Ribeiro, who as student researchers were both a part of the development team for the prototype recipe, are now full-time staff.
Daniel was a key part of the first stage of the project, and Rodrigo’s expertise really came into play in the second stage.
Looking to the future, Ricardo shared that they are going to be scaling up even further beyond their initial thoughts of 500-litres batches. He wants to get the product into the U.S. market and through discussions with industry, he knows there’s opportunity in the market there, but the quantities and production will need to grow.
They bought more equipment to continue to expand their operation in Barrie and the goal is that in two months’ time, it will be functional and Miski Brewing’s capacity will be increased by 400 per cent, giving them enough product to fulfill the market need across the border.
When it comes down to it, Ricardo is proud of Miski Brewing’s journey thus far. “The hope is that all the effort and the blood, sweat, and tears will pay off and we encourage other Brewmasters to try our product and do their own research to grow this type of product in the market,” said Ricardo.
Everyone just wants to be able to enjoy a beverage of their choice, and Ricardo is happy to know that now, those with different dietary restrictions or allergies, or someone who just loves all types of beer, can crack a cold one and enjoy their beverage alongside friends and family.
If you want to try Miski Brewing, they are currently serving their brew in select restaurants, but customers can pick up their four-pack, six-pack or 24 case at their production facility at 70 Ellis Dr., Unit 4, in Barrie. It will also be available at the LCBO in a few more weeks.
Project intake is ongoing for our FBIC team. If you have an innovation challenge, we’ve got the solution. Start the conversation with us today. For research and development partnership opportunities, contact David DiPietro, Manager, Business Development, at [email protected].
This project has been made possible through investments from Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and through the Tech-Access Canada Interactive Visit program.