There’s a lot that goes into brewing a beer and a lot that comes out of it as well, literally. By weight, the biggest of these waste streams from brewing will be the spent grain. Spent grain is the byproduct of the mash, the process in which the malted grain is steeped in hot water to convert the starches into fermentable sugars. But if you are reading this, you probably already knew that. So what do we do with our spent grain?
In what is thankfully a standard industry practice, many breweries will donate or work an arrangement with a nearby farm to use their spent grain to feed cows, pigs, and other livestock. We’re doing this slightly different. With our farm’s focus on pasture-raised chicken (meat and eggs) we are going to rely on our feathered friends to consume what grain they can. The rest will be composted and used as fertilizer in the hop yard, apple orchard, and greenhouse.
From the time the grain is grown to the time it leaves the mash tun it will have gone through many chemical reactions, which leave it generally high in protein and fibre, and in need of additional nutrients to properly meet the chickens needs. We are in the process of having spent grain samples from our current recipes tested for exact nutritional components in order to properly customize a feed mix for our layer and broiler hens. This is another area where we have found working with a local supplier to be extra helpful and we are very thankful to their farm!
By doing so, we’ll be able to actually reuse grain, and help keep the cost of our inputs down on the farm. Sustainability is an economic philosophy as much as it is environmental!
And if our sheep are good, they’ll get some as an occasional treat too.