Can Beer Feed The World?

Courtesy of Pixbay

Can Beer Feed The World?

by Tamara Holt | The Dish | Aug 27, 2017

When Dan Kurzrock started home-brewing in his San Francisco kitchen, he made ales and saisons. He also made a lot of garbage—in the form of “spent grain,” the grain left over from the beer-making process. Feeling too guilty to toss it, he tried turning it into dog biscuits and baking it into bread, finally mixing it with nuts and chocolate and launching Regrained “Sustainable Brewer’s Malt Bars”.

Sound like a typical Bay Area eco-preneur story? Certainly. Though beer waste upcycling may be more than a granola-bar gimmick. If Dan and his partner, Jordan Schwartz, are right, spent grain could be the superfood of the future.

Kurzock and Schwartz have a mission to make the most of wasted grain. They call the bars “a Trojan horse for the base ingredient.” The future of spent grain, they say, is beer flour.

In the brewing process, the starch from the grain is fermented as part of the beer, while the protein and fiber are leftover—spent, as it were. The crushed, soaked grain is ideal animal feed and traditionally farmers have happily hauled it away for their livestock. The deal benefits both. It’s the most sustainable solution to excess spent grain and the system makes sense for breweries with farms nearby. Urban brewers, many spawned from the last decade’s craft brewing frenzy, more likely have to pay for disposal, either to compost or a landfill. Artisanal brewers could be the cause of excess waste grain. They use about four times more grain than commercial beer makers.

Industry research estimates about half of the US annual 6 billion pounds of spent grain go to landfill—that’s 900 million pounds of protein and 600 million pounds of fiber that could be turned into a sustainable source of nourishment. It’s a small reflection of the 30-40 percent of the global food supply that goes to waste in America.

The word may be new, but #upcycling edibles is old school. Meat bones and vegetable scraps are cooked into stock, the liquid gold of cooking. Overripe bananas become bread, imperfect and over-abundant mid-season produce are simmered to jams and sauces, sealed and saved or sold. The rest goes to compost. Connecting farm and kitchen is a classic closed-loop economy. In urban manufacturing, Brooklyn-based Artisanal yogurt maker White Moustache markets their waste product—whey—flavored and bottled as a probiotic tonic.

Kurzock refers to gathering the perishable grain from the brewery as “harvesting.” And there’s a lot to harvest and experiment with. Each six pack of beer yields about a pound of grain—that’s three cups of flour. Beer flour boasts 30% fiber and 20 percent protein, a warm nutty flavor, and the ability to play well in combination with all-purpose flour. He’s experimenting with baked products like cookies, pretzels and chips.

Regrained isn’t the only company upcycling spent grain. In September, start-up Canvas, backed by Anheuser Busch incubator ZX Ventures, is launching a line of plant-based smoothies from what they are marketing as “saved grain.”

Portland Pet Food sells beer-biscuit dog treats, Hewn Bakery in Evanston, IL sells a low-gluten, high-protein spent grain bread. Saltwater Brewery in Delray, FL has prototyped a 100 percent biodegradable and compostable six-pack ring made of brewers waste. Brewhouse Compostables does the same for tableware. Alaskan Brewing Co. in Juneau runs a custom $1.8 million furnace that burns their spent grains, making enough steam to power most of their brewery, offsetting their energy costs by about 70 percent, nearly $450,000 each year.

Whether human nutrition from spent grain is a solution or gimmick remains to be seen. Maybe the next innovation needs to be an app that connects brewers with fresh waste to farmers with hungry cows—or hungry entrepreneurs.

Or maybe we’re just drinking too much beer.

Recommended

11/14/17 // “Kim” by Joy Again

Hailing from the rich cultural breeding ground of Philadelphia, Joy Again is a quintet right at that vital point in their career between just starting out and truly figuring out their sound - in this… | watch

11/17/17 // Ep 32 // Louis CK / ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

Kate Willett and Matt Ruby on Louis CK’s fall from grace. Charles Hinshaw on ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.’ Molly Knefel on the linger effects of the infamous ‘Access Hollywood’ tape; Sneak preview of Jane Weaver’s BTR Live Studio session. | listen

11/15/17 // Blake Shelton: Most Adequate Man Alive

The internet was confused over the choice, given that Shelton has neither the physique nor the face for the level of panty-dropping one would expect from the world’s sexiest man. | read

11/10/17 // Terra Lightfoot

 Terra Lightfoot is a Canadian roots/rock musician with the kind of powerful, bluesy voice that knocks you off your feet. | listen

11/15/17 // The Last Think Tank on the Left

People's Policy Project aims to make a progressive splash in the think tank world. | read

11/13/17 // Avocaderia

Chelsea White visits Avocaderia, the world's first avocado bar, located inside Industry City Food Hall in Brooklyn, New York. Co-owner Francesco Brachetti talks about the inspiration behind Avocaderia… | watch