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The Golden Pint

E. Lorenz | Digital Journalism | Fall 2013

BRISTOL R.I. __ Even though that grain might seem spent, it is a surprisingly viable re-usable resource. There are dozens of ways to recycle that beat barley; brewers have used spent grain to create anything from chocolate chip cookies, to biofuel.

A common practice for most breweries is donating their spent grain to farmers to use as compost or to feed their livestock. Many of these farms are located within a few miles of the facility.

Spent grain can be beneficial to your garden. Deer and other critters will nibble on the grain, so if you place it away from your blooming botany, it will help to detract animals away from your crops. If you really know what you are doing, it can also facilitate the growth of shiitake mushrooms.

Some brewpubs use it in the kitchen because it still contains flavor and nutrients, even though it is technically waste. Hales Ales in Seattle uses it for the crostini used in their bruschetta. If that does not stir your pot, Frankenmuth Brewery in Michigan makes a “spent grain bread bowl” for their chili.

Ask for some spent grain from your local brewer, and you can make your own batch of quick bread, or dog treats. Even the social media site, Pinterest has tacked up some spent grain inspiration. However, aside from pleasuring palettes, spent grain is a surprising source of fuel.

The Alaskan Brewing Company, in Juneau, Alaska, is on the forefront of sustainable brewing. The brewery developed a “Spent Grain Steam Boiler”, which is fueled entirely off spent grain.

The brewery expects to see an offset in its yearly energy costs, by 70 percent. In terms of dollar amounts, they will save about $450,000 a year. The other beauty of this operation is that they more the brewery grows, so will their fuel source.

MillerCoors, the second largest beer company in the U.S., has a facility in Colorado operated by Merrick & Company, which creates beer-ethanol: a petroleum alternative produced using spent grain and spilled beer. This undertaking, titled the MillerCoors Ethanol Project, began in 1996.

In 2008, the facility produced 1.7 million gallons of fuel-grade ethanol. That same year, during the National Democratic Convention in Denver, MillerCoors supplied the political elite with E85 fuel for the sponsored fleet of 400 General Motor vehicles.

E85 is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. This is a blend because it is actually illegal to run a car entirely off ethanol.

Flex-Fuel Vehicles (FFVs), which have been in production since the 1980s, can consume E85. FFVs use approximately 27 percent less energy per gallon than gasoline, according to the EPA.

There are mixed reviews for the sustainability of ethanol-powered cars, but I am going to let that dog rest, for this blog anyway.

Sustainable brewing practices might not solve the environmental crisis, but thinking about creative ways to recycle waste is a constructive start. If something considered trash has the potential for reuse your garden, in your kitchen, and in your car, then it is probably worth a second look.

Spent Grain Recipes

How to prepare spent grain for baking & cooking

Spent grain pizza dough

Spent grain focaccia 

Spent grain waffles

Spent grain falafels 

Spent grain buttermilk biscuits

Spent grain cheddar crackers

Spent grain burgers


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