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Local Brewery Creates New Dishes With Spent Grains

Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

Rosemary crackers made from spent grains at Oak Park Brewery in Sacramento.

Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

When you brew beer there's a lot of grain and hops leftover. The by-product looks like wet granola. Often the goopy mash is diverted to farms for animal feed or composted. But, a Sacramento brewery is serving it to humans.

Tom Karovonen offers tastes of several beers on tap to customers at Oak Park Brewing Company.

The bar's co-owner Bonnie Peterson tries a few options. Her favorite is a pomelo kumquat saison.

"I love the saison, and I feel like this would make great lemon bars," says Peterson.

The kitchen staff at Oak Park substitutes spent grain flour for any recipe that calls for whole wheat flour. Right now you can order a vegan burger or mushroom risotto both made with brewing by-product.

Massive piles of barley, wheat, rye and crushed corn are leftover everyday at the brewery. Because Oak Park has a zero waste policy, Peterson says the kitchen is very creative in using the leftovers in a myriad of sweet and savory dishes. 

"There's so much good protein and fiber left in that grain to see it go to waste is a shame," she says. "For a typical seven barrel batch of beer I think we end up with four large trash cans full of spent grain." 

The waste turns into tractor trailer loads that must be disposed of quickly because it spoils within days. Most breweries have to give it away or throw it away unless they create a new way to use it.

Oak Park brewery even treats the dogs on its patio to spent grain biscuits.

Peterson shares the kitchen's most recent creation -- rosemary crackers -- with customer Nick Acosta.

"Pretty good, earthy, almost like a beer, but edible," smiles Acosta. 

View the recipe for rosemary brewers grain crackers here.