Sustainable Brewing: Good for the Beer, Great for the Earth

Sustainable Brewing: Good for the Beer, Great for the Earth

Reduce, reuse, recycle—nowadays, that’s a concept just about everyone can agree on. And one of the major behind-the-scenes benefits of operating a brewery is the opportunity it gives us to do just that: reuse and recycle our materials in unique ways.

Since the start of this year, we’ve created 24 tons—that’s no typo, guys: tons—of spent grain. For every brewery, it’s a challenge to figure out what to do with all tonnage. After all, it’s not really waste: there are still plenty of natural uses for spent grain. We know some breweries that partner with local farmers who use the grain to fertilize their crops. Other brewers use spent grain as a base for products including candles, soap, and dog biscuits.

Right now, we’re transporting our spent grain back to the homestead in Silverado. It starts with Brian and Jack sliding a series of 55 – gallon drums beneath the mash tun. With the push of a button, the grain pours out into each drum. Then the guys load the drums onto the forklift and fill the trailer. That’s the easy part.

Once Brian gets home, he has to get the grain out of the drums and into our compost piles. He backs the trailer into the compost area, shoves over the drums—each can hold about 230 pounds of grain, but remember: wet grain weighs more than dry!—and builds up the mounds of compost. (The real danger is getting splashed with some of that wet grain. The odor is intense.)

With the tractor, Brian transports about 1000 pounds of the grain into our poultry pen. We have 5 turkeys, 18 ducks, 17 chickens (including one rooster), and a mere three geese. All that grain feeds all those birds for about four days.

The rest of the grain stays in the compost pile, slowly decomposing to a state where we can use it to fertilize our vegetable beds, fruit trees, and rose bushes. We’ve always been fans of compost—so cool to put kitchen scraps and garden waste to good use! — but it took us three years to actually get our first compost pile going. (Those of you who also compost know how long it can take for all those eggshells, vegetable peelings, and grass clippings to decompose into nutrient – rich compost!)


Now that the compost pile is up and running, so to speak, decomposition happens much more quickly. When Brian first began depositing Valiant’s spent grains, he created a 20-foot swath of 4-foot-tall piles. All that grain has now decomposed into a single pile.

We’ll always take advantage of Valiant’s spent grains for our little farm—but as we continue brewing, and the number of spent-grain-tons climbs, we also hope to build relationships with local farmers. Reduce, reuse, recycle — and reach out to others. It’s the composter’s brewer’s way.