When brewers finish making a batch of beer, they’ve got more to do than just raise a pint glass. They have to figure out what to do with hundreds of pounds of spent grain. Some brewers give the water-laden detritus to ranchers for feed. Some use it for compost. Others simply toss it. But a growing number of Colorado brewpubs are repurposing the grain into tasty menu items.
At West Flanders Brewing Company in Boulder, executive chef Jamie Lucas uses brewmaster Brian Lutz’s leftovers in a variety of mouthwatering ways. He bakes a granolalike munchie (recipe below) consisting of spent barley, agave nectar, seeds, nuts, and dried fruit. But Lucas doesn’t stop at mere snacks. So far, the ingredient has shown up in West Flanders’ meatloaf, crab cakes, fruit cobbler, and a dessert parfait. Lucas either uses the spent grain straight from the brewing process, or he’ll dry it and grind it into flour. The grain, Lucas says, still contains sugar and it boasts a range of flavors that include toffee, coffee, and even chocolate.
Lucas says he first considered cooking with spent barley after trying it in a pizza at Deschutes Brewery & Public House in Oregon. Then he began seeing like-minded recipes sprout up on the Internet. “When the opportunity at West Flanders came up,” Lucas says, “I knew I was going to have a limitless amount of spent grain to play around with.” Lucas plans further experimentation with recipes for fried chicken, falafel, and desserts.
Forty-five miles away in Aurora, at Dad & Dudes Breweria, a brewpub focused on craft beer and pizza, co-owner Mason Hembree is similarly enthralled with using the barley leftovers. Hembree says spent grain adds sweetness and a whole grain texture to his pizza dough. In fact, the ingredient has become part of the brewpub’s allure. “We had one commenter who said this should be Colorado’s signature style for pizza,” Hembree says.
It’s a fair suggestion—and with an increasing number of breweries in Colorado, spent grain foods could be bigger than that: It could be the state’s next culinary claim to fame.
Beer for Breakfast
Homebrewers with a taste for baking can make West Flanders’ executive chef Jamie Lucas’ recipe for Spent Grain-ola at home.
2 cups oats, steel-cut or rolled
2 cups spent grain, wet
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 cup coconut flakes
1 cup almonds, slivered or whole
1 cup sunflower seeds
2 cup coconut oil
2 cup agave nectar
1 cup dried cranberries or cherries
1 cup dried apricots, sliced
Preheat oven to 300°. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the dried fruit. Mix thoroughly. Spray a cookie sheet lightly with nonstick spray, and spread the mixture evenly over the pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir. Place back into the oven for an additional 15 minutes. Allow to cool and add dried fruit. Store in an airtight container.