Inspired by Jessica's post about beer spent grain, I decided to visit a brewery in Brooklyn. There are 36 breweries in NYC, out of which 14 are in Brooklyn. I decided to visit the Greenpoint beer and ale company (another unimaginatively named establishment) in its namesake neighborhood. Established in January of 2014, they make small batch ales, lagers, and beers five barrels at a time. They also experiment quite regularly and are always interested in trying out new and strange ingredients to give their product an edge in a competitive and almost saturated local market.
I called them and they asked me to stop by on a Tuesday morning since that's when they start brewing new batches. Their 6000 square foot establishment serves as their brewery, bar, restaurant, and warehouse. I met with Mark, a brewer who gave me a tour of their brewery. There were three people at work, brewing a fresh batch of peach saison. After the tour, we sat down and had a conversation about the waste created in the brewing process.
Me: So this is perhaps an obvious question, but what would you say is your major source of waste?
Mark: Definitely the boiler mash.
Me: And that is the grain?
Mark: It's mostly grain, there's also a lot of water in it. We try to extract as much of it as possible since that's what turns into beer, but there's always some water left.
Me: So it's a hot and soft mush of barley and water?
Mark: Not a lot of the barley grain, all of that dissolves. It's the husk that's left behind.
Me: And how much of it do you produce?
Mark: We've never really measured it. We should, though.
Me: Could we calculate it? Maybe we can estimate it?
We pull out our smartphones and look up some figures. We then do some math on a napkin.
Mark: So let's see, it says here that for every 100 liters of beer produced, there's 20 kg of beer spent grain that's produced.
Me: Ok, that's good. So much beer do you produce?
Mark: Well I have no idea how many liters, but we make 6 beers at 5 barrels a week.
Me: Ok, so that's 30 a week, that's like 1600 a year?
Mark: That's close. Last year we make around 1500, but this year we're ramping up operations.
Me: You don't keep track of the amounts?
Mark: Not really, we're really flexible here. When we run out of beer we just close the shop and go to another bar.
Me: Ok, fair enough. So let's say 1600?
Me: So each barrel is 31 gallons. And each gallon is 3.8 liters. So that's about 190,000 liters of beer each year.
Mark: You make it sound like a lot.
Me: That's a lot. That means you create 38 tons of beer spent grain.
Mark: 3 tons a month? Sounds about right.
Me: So what do you do with it? What happens to the grain?
Mark: It goes straight from the boiler to the trash.
Me: Do you put it in bags?
Mark: No, it goes into a large bin. We get it picked up thrice a week.
Me: And you have to pay for that?
Mark:Yep, we get charged per pick up, and it's almost a $200 per pick up.
Me: That's a lot. That's like 600 a week. 2400 a month.
Mark: Yep. We just put it in the warehouse. The truck drives straight in and we dump the waste with a forklift. It's the same way the grain arrives. In a truck. We use the same forklift.
Me: Do you think that something can be done with all this grain? I've read about how it can be turned into animal feed, or even into food for humans.
Mark: Actually, back in 2014, there was a farmer who used to come around every week to pick up the grain. He used to drive over from Long Island in a pick up truck and take a few barrels worth of grain to feed cattle. But then he stopped coming.
Me: Do you know why?
Mark: I guess the distance? It's quite a way off. Also, there are a lot of breweries in Long Island too, so maybe it's easier for the farmers to pick it up from there?
Me: That's the problem with being in the city.
Mark: Yes. Especially now with the new law, we have to clearly mark and separate our organic waste. We also have a restaurant here, which means that we have to make sure that we separate our food waste from the used plastic forks and knives.
Me: How do you do that?
Mark: Honestly, it's easier just to clear the tables ourselves and separate the trash. We used to do separate trash bags but people don't follow the rules.
Me: So let me ask you. Imagine if someone could come by and pick up your grain for free each week. Would you be willing to give it away?
Mark: Definitely, it would save us a lot of money. We're also really interested in discovering new uses for the grain, and so we would love to work with people on that.
Me: Let me do my part. Could you fill this with grain for me?
Mark: Haha, totally, and let me know what you do with it.
I'll update this post with my experiments. Anyone interested in baking?