A large by-product of the brewing process is spent grain, which consists residue of malt and gain left in the mash kettle.  In order to reduce waste, many breweries recycle spent grains. A few examples are:

  • Schlafly and Full Sail send their spent grains to local farmers to use as livestock feed
  • Lakefront Brewery donates their spent grains to a local non-profit, Growing Power to use as organic fertilizer
  • Great Lakes Brewing Co. uses their spent grains as a growing medium for mushrooms
  • Firestone Walker includes spent grains in their pizza dough

Alaskan Brewing Co. sends their spent grains to the closest market in Seattle, but that is about to change.  In order to keep the grain from decomposing, it needs to be dried.  Currently, the spent grain is dried using a machine powered by burning spent grain and oil.  A grant worth $458,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America program will cover part of the cost for a machine that will use spent grain to power a biomass steam boiler.  This will not only eliminate the need for oil to power the machine to dry the grain, but will also be able to power the brewery.

Magic Hat is also looking for alternative uses for spent grains.  They have partnered with PurposeEnergy a company who’s tagline is “Saving the Earth.  One Beer at a Time™”  PurposeEnergy has developed a Biphase Orbicular Biodigester (better know as BOB).  The anaerobic digester turns spent grain into biofuel and eliminates the biochemical oxygen demand levels in the wastewater.  (The U.S. government limits the amount of biochemical oxygen demand a brewery can generate).  At Magic Hat, the BOB reduces energy costs and the biochemical oxygen demand levels allowing the brewery to increase beer production.

PurposeEnergy is currently only focusing on the brewing industry although it does have applications in a variety of other manufacturing environments.  The founder of PurposeEnergy is Eric Fitch, a MIT engineering graduate who has taken his love of beer to a new level.


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