Beyond Your Pint: Following the Barley Trail

When we enjoy our beer at our local breweries we often forget the ingredients that go into brewing our beer. The primary ingredients in brewing process are barley, water, yeast and hops. One of the by-products of brewing is called spent grain, which is leftover barley (grain) and adjuncts after the mash process. This spent grain can account for up to 85 percent of a brewery’s by-product and this is where farmers play a big roll for breweries. If a breweries were to pay for this amount of spent grain to be disposed of on a weekly basis the cost would inordinate.

Ass Clown Brewery and Eddie Black, of Black Farms, collaborate in a removal program where they both benefit.  Together Black Farms and Westmoreland and Sons Farm in Huntersville have 75 acres with 100 head of cattle that would not be possible to feed without a spent grain program with four local breweries. What is the cost to Black for this feed program? The time, effort and fuel to pick up the grain but more importantly the savings these two farms have on not purchasing feed for their cattle is imperative.  According to Black, buying feed for these cattle would be $200 per ton and that last three days and that doesn’t include the supplements and hay that these cattle also receive. These cattle provide meat for their families, as well as profit through selling their brewer’s grain-fed steers through Westmoreland and Sons Farm.

Jay Knox of Knox Farms works with D9 Brewing Company and Primal Brewery on a weekly basis to dispose of their spent grain.  Knox picks up close to 16,000 pounds of spent grain from D9 Brewing alone on a weekly basis. He uses the spent grain along with hay and mix of minerals to feed his cattle. These cattle are then sold off to other farms across North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia which are then sold off to stockyards.

This exchange of commerce between our local breweries and farmers in our own backyard is necessary. In the long run, without these programs in place costs would be higher for breweries to operate and having cattle wouldn’t be cost beneficial for farms. As you pass a spent grain bin on your next brewery visit, enjoy its sweet smell as this is part of what made your beer and local community so great.


Wendy Raymond: OTC’s Half Pint

I have lived in Cornelius for eight years and love being part of the community.  I have my Certified Beer Server certificate and currently studying for my Certified Cicerone. When I’m not studying beer, I’m enjoying life with my amazing family.

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