A six-pack of beer produces a pound of spent grain. Imagine that: a pound of wet, messy grain that needs to be disposed of. Historically this grain would be dried and sent to farms to serve as animal feed but increasingly, smaller craft breweries are cropping up in inner-city locations, and they don’t have farmers nearby. As a result, best case, the grain either goes to compost, or worst case, it ends up in landfill. But what if there was a better way of reusing beer waste? What if the grains could be reused to produce something delicious and good for you?
That’s where the guys at ReGrained come in. They’ve created that very thing: a delicious granola bar made from beer waste. Now you can literally eat beer.
We caught up with Dan Kurzrock, one ReGrained’s co-founders, to have a chat about beer, brewing and granola bars.
The Homebrewing Lifecycle
Many startup founders that are tackling issues such as sustainability or food waste have very noble, philanthropic stories of why and how they started their venture. While this certainly plays a part in Dan’s background, the beginning of the ReGrained story is a tad unconventional…
“We started as underage home brewers at college. After moving on from syrup based brewing we began doing all-grain brewing. We were using 20-30 pounds of grain to the equivalent of a third of a keg of beer. After soaking the grains in water, and taking the sugars from the grains, you’re left with a grain that has only about 10% of its original sugar, but with all the protein and fibre still remaining.”
“We had this oatmeal-like substance left over, and it tasted good. I wondered if we could use it to make food, so we experimented. We made bread, and sold the bread to our friends. From there we starting having ideas to see if there was a way to have one hobby that creates another hobby that can then fund the original hobby. A true lifecycle.”
Dan has well and truly moved on from his college days. While he still home brews (a lot less often than he used to), he now spends a lot more time on the by-products of the process than doing his own brewing. What started as a hobby has grown into a fully fledged startup in the Bay area of San Francisco.
To make these beer waste granola bars, ReGrained takes the mushy spent grain from breweries, dries it out and turns it into nutritious bars full of protein and fibre. A lot of work has gone into recipe development to ensure optimum texture and taste, and with the help of a Barnraiser crowdfunding campaign, ReGrained have been able to upgrade their recipe, their processes and packaging.
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The Urban Brewery Challenge
ReGrained currently work with a small handful of urban breweries in the San Francisco area, and that alone keeps them pretty busy. But that’s just a drop in the ocean when you consider the global footprint of grain used in the brewing process. It’s estimated that around 6 billion pounds of grain are used annually by the brewing industry in the States alone.
As Dan discussed the waste side of brewing, it became evident that there’s a growing problem for brewers around the world – especially those in urban areas – and this is where ReGrained see a real opportunity.
“Beer grains typically aren’t a part of the food waste conversation – it’s a by-product, and one that not a lot of people know about. But there’s no way to create beer without having this grain left over. It’s not really anything that’s gotten attention before.”
“What’s changed in the industry recently is the boom in craft beer all over the world. There are all these breweries that are opening up in cities, and these urban breweries are having problems disposing of the spent grains.”
From just one day’s beer production of a small on-site brew pub, ReGrained can make 15,000 granola bars. If you think about the number of breweries there are, and how often they’re brewing, you start to get an idea of the amount of grain that needs to be disposed of – it’s a colossal amount. And it’s a colossal waste if this all ends up as compost or landfill rather than food with an extended shelf life that can feed the world.
Food Waste Alchemy
ReGrained believe that reusing food by-products and waste has brought about a whole new science, one that he refers to as ‘food waste alchemy’.
“We want people to buy our bars because of our mission, but we don’t want people eating the bars just for the virtue of them. The taste is paramount. It’s the most important thing. When we redid our recipe our goal was to have people love the bars for what they are, and then learn about it and be even more excited”.
The initial ReGrained bar was a little dry and crumbly, but Dan didn’t want to rely on the story behind ReGrained to bring their customers; they wanted a great product. Dan and his team persevered, and with a little help from a round of crowdfunding investment, were able to develop and improve their recipe.
“With all this food waste alchemy, creating products that are excellent, that taste the best, that stand on their own is really, really important”.
If bread can be turned into beer, and beer waste can be turned into granola bars, almost anything seems possible. While the Regrained bars aren’t yet available in the UK, Dan hinted that ReGrained and Toast Ale have had conversations about how they might collaborate in the future – and we’re really excited to see what they come up with!