An enterprising student went on a brewery tour and discovered a lot of food waste. Grain is used when making beer in a similar way that tea is steeped, after the grain has been soaking in the water it is discarded. In some areas that grain gets turned into compost, other areas the grain can end up in a landfill. Beer is an energy intensive product and being able to cut waste is beneficial for everybody, and that’s what the student did. He has started a company that takes that grain and uses it to grow mushrooms!
One day, not long after he arrived in 2015, he was eyeing a pile of spent grain left over after the sugars are extracted during the fermenting process. Brewers not only want to dispose of it, but ditch it fast, because bacteria begin to work on the grain and, after a couple of days, cause an awful stink. “Why are we throwing this away?” he remembers asking a professor. He was directed to microbiologist Paul Tiege, a research scientist in the Olds College Centre for Innovation (OCCI), who encouraged Villeneuve to run nutritional tests on the spent grain. “Alex spotted an opportunity . . . actually, several opportunities . . . where others see a liability,” says Tiege, who worked alongside Villeneuve on his research. “He fleshed out his idea, developed a research plan and decided to turn the idea into a business.”
Tiege says it was fortuitous timing, as the innovation centre had created an incubator fund in 2015 of up to $5,000 to ensure “innovative ideas do not get stuck in the development phase.” Villeneuve’s idea was greenlighted, and he began testing
We all know that craft beers are delicious thanks to all their fun flavours and now we also know that by drinking craft beer we are helping the world of science. The search for hop plants, which are integral to craft beer, has pushed science to go further into examining the plant and it’s neighbours – that means the world of botany is expanding. The drive for more varieties of hops has even led to using old ideas in new ways around what medicinal practices hops can be used for!
Flavor is driving the hunt. But, as it turns out, Matthews himself is not only, or even mostly, interested in flavor. The scientific byways, and possible medical uses, are more intriguing to him: the hipster I.P.A. quaffers are, in effect, advancing the frontiers of pure science, enabling the sequencing of the hop genome, and funding ethnobotanical excursions. “I was just in Tbilisi, at the Georgian botanical garden,” Matthews said. “People in Georgia are still into agroforestry—they pick wild strawberries and things in the forest. It turns out rural Georgians have for a long time used wild hops to cure their breads. Hops makes a powerful broad-spectrum antibiotic. It stops bacteria from souring the bread.”
The Georgians have also used hops as a folk medicine for reproductive health, to treat uterine pain, for example. This makes sense to Matthews since hops contain the strongest known plant-derived estrogen. “We are seeking to engineer it,” he said. “We think it can be used for hormone-replacement therapy—for example, in postmenopausal women.”
Brewing beer requires a lot of energy since it involves heating large amounts of water and tossing in a bunch of plant matter. From there the plant matter gets tossed into compost (or in some places a landfill) to be reused. This plant matter is known as spent grain and you can use it again before it ends up as compost. A company called Regrained is taking those spent grains from brewers and turning them into food!
That six-pack of IPA you enjoyed on Friday night generated about a pound of waste in its making. After brewers soaked barley (or sometimes other grains) in hot water and extracted the liquid to make beer, they’re left with a lot of spent grain on their hands. Most rural breweries, like Northern California’s Lagunitas or Sierra Nevada, haul the byproduct to nearby farms, which feed the grain to their animals. Others recycle it as compost. But for smaller breweries in urban areas, miles away from hungry pigs, figuring out what to do with the leftovers isn’t always easy.
The company Regrained turns that spent grain into snack bars. At a Meetup event in the Mission district of San Francisco, curious eaters lined up around the company’s booth, intrigued by the displayed logo “Eat Your Beer.” Cameron Schwartz, a tall man wearing a T-shirt with the same words, explained how his brother and buddies—all home-brewers—decided to open a business that takes beer byproducts and bakes them into bars, costing $2.50 a pop and sold at local grocery stores. So far, ReGrained has worked with three breweries in the Bay Area.
Saltwater Brewery is a beer company that makes the oceans better while selling beer. Most breweries sell their beers in six packs attached by plastic rings and those rings often end up in the ocean chocking sea life and otherwise causing harm to the ecosystem. What Saltwater has done is create a new six pack ring that breaks down in the water and can even feed some aquatic life!
The rings are also 100 percent biodegradable and compostable, which just ups the product’s sustainability game.
The brand says that the innovative design is as resistant and efficient as plastic packaging. The only drawback is that edible six-pack rings are more expensive to produce. But the company hopes that customers will be willing to pay a little more in order to help the environment and animal life.
Beer is delicious and has been a part of healthy living for years, but why is it good for us? Beer can provide mental benefits because it helps people relax and can bring temporary moments of joy. It also works on a physical level, which is what researchers have been looking into. The hops are one key ingredient that makes beer a healthy choice. Hops have been used in teas to improve physical health of individuals and are used in beer.
So drink it up! Just not too much.
In one study, appearing in the Journal of Natural Products, a team of Italian researchers identified three previously unknown chemicals from Cascade hops—which are used in many American brews, but perhaps notably as a finishing hop in Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale. One of the chemicals has clear anti-inflammatory properties.
In a second study, presented this week at the American Chemical Society’s annual conference in San Diego, researchers from the University of Idaho report figuring out a streamlined procedure for making synthetic versions of two key hop chemicals, humulone and lupulone, which are known to have antimicrobial and anticancer activity. With their artificial versions, the researchers plan to make an assortment of chemical tweaks to optimize the compounds for disease-busting drugs.