Beefing up to handle spent grain from Asheville-area breweries


From my story in Sunday’s Asheville Citizen-Times about how all the new spent grain that will be produced in Western North Carolina could energize the region’s beef cattle industry:

Martin Morgan’s cows go crazy for craft beer.

More to the point, Morgan’s herd of Red Angus cattle can’t get enough of a major craft beer byproduct -— the spent grain that’s left after the beer is brewed. Morgan has been feeding cows — first dairy cows, and now beef cattle — spent grain from Asheville Pizza & Brewing’s brewery for 15 years.

“They love it,” Morgan said one recent afternoon on his Leicester farm after feeding his herd a load of the milled barley that Asheville Pizza uses in its beer-making process.

The brew-to-moo connection between small craft brewers and local farmers isn’t new, but with one big new brewery already open in Brevard and two more set to open over the next two years, the amount of spent grain, and the need to dispose of it, will increase exponentially.

The copious amount of grain has the potential to energize the relatively small beef cattle industry in the mountains. There are already plans to bring the brewers together with area cattle farmers to formalize a supply system. Meantime, other potential uses are being explored. Spent grain can be used to make everything from bread and biofuel to pill coatings.