Beer has four principal ingredients: barley, hops, water, and yeast. Did you know that about 90% of these ingredients are left behind? To summarize the process before the suds fill your glass and satiate your palate, beer is created when hot water is used to extract sugars from malted barley and is boiled with hops, cooled, and fermented with yeast. We, the beer drinkers, end up with a liquid to imbibe. But what of the solid ingredients we started with?
The malted barley grains are deemed “spent.” In the United States alone, approximately 200 million barrels of beer are consumed each year (1 barrel=31 gallons). On the supply side, this takes an average of 6 billion pounds of grain, which in turn becomes 6 billion pounds of spent grain. To add some perspective, consider that a Tyrannosaurus Rex weighed approximately 2 million pounds each. So we’re talking about a small army of roughly 3 thousand T. Rexes worth of spent grain, generated as a natural byproduct of the brewing process annually.
Now that this post has covered both beer and dinosaurs, let’s explore some of the ways this beer “waste” can be used. Some breweries establish relationships with farmers who repurpose spent grain as compost or as feed for their animals. But what of urban breweries? On one hand, cities tend to have a lot of beer drinkers and offer an attractive market for craft beer entrepreneurs. On the other hand, cities do not tend to have many farms and as such, these brewers face less demand for their spent grain. Breweries in cities like San Francisco can use services like Recology who compost spent grain with other waste to make fertilizer. Although this is a sustainable waste management strategy, spent grain has unique food qualities that we at ReGrained believe set it apart from other compostables like coffee grounds and table scraps.
Spent grain contains fiber, protein, and as most curious homebrewers inevitably discover, it has a unique texture and flavor. It seems unconventional, but we actually find spent grain to be an ideal baking ingredient. Plus, the urban craft breweries that we work with (like 21st Amendment) are happy to see their byproduct go to a creative use. Together, we are able to sustainably divert a waste stream. Our vision is to develop delicious products that maximize the offerings of spent grain, from granola bars to breads, cookies, cereals, chips, and more. I guess you could say we like to have our beer, and eat it too. Cheers!
Dan was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Burlingame, California, and then returned south to study Economics at UCLA. Dan realized a passion for entrepreneurship early. In high school, he created and sold novel merchandise, ranging from shirts to frisbees, to his peers. Dan is always on the move, and relentlessly seeks opportunity to brainstorm and implement new ideas. He is a passionate communicator and loves to build excitement.