Marc Atkinson/Jesse Rogala
Eat Beer! That’s the rally cry of urban entrepreneurs Dan Kurzrock and Jordan Schwartz of San Francisco. The savvy duo uses spent grain from the brewing process to make delicious, healthy foods. With their company, ReGrained, they are solving food-waste problems in the urban craft-beer industry. Urban Farm chats with these innovative urbanites about how they’re contributing to a more sustainable food system.
What is the current scene of craft breweries?
ReGrained: There has been a huge boom of craft breweries in recent years, and with it have come large numbers of new urban craft breweries. There are over 25 breweries just within the city limits of San Francisco—that’s more breweries than neighborhoods! While there’s long been synergy between the brewer and the farmer, the nature of the urban environment has rendered these kinds of relationships largely impractical. Most breweries in San Francisco pay the local compost network to haul the grain away with other organic waste.
How does the brewing system work?
RG: Malted barley, along with other grains of the brewers’ choice, such as wheat, rye or oats, are soaked in hot water releasing starches from the grain and converting the starches into simple sugars. This sugary liquid, called wort, is drained from the solid now “spent” grain. The wort is transferred into a large kettle where it is boiled and hops and other ingredients are added. From here, our beer is cooled and sent off to fermentation, where yeast is added to essentially eat the sugars and produce alcohol.
Left behind are our spent grains. The term spent grain refers to the fact that the majority of the starches/sugars have been extracted by the brewer. What’s left behind? All the plant protein and dietary fiber.
What inspired your business model?
RG: We are actually homebrewers ourselves. Back in college, we would produce a standard 5-gallon homebrew batch of beer and be left with 15 to 20 pounds of spent grain in a cooler. Conscious of our hobby—which we loved—and the waste it created, we wanted to figure out something creative to do with it. One batch of “Brewin’ Bread” after another, we realized we were on to something. We began to wonder, if we had this grain problem as small homebrewers living in a city, was there an opportunity to present a solution to the burgeoning commercial industry?
We were particularly inspired by the double-ended potential to create value. Not only did we believe that we could we help breweries save time and resource, but we could also then turn this “waste” (or resource!) into healthy and delicious food.
Tell me about your products. How did you create these recipes?
RG: With Dan’s interest in beer, Jordan’s knack for flavor pairing and food, and some professional nutrition advice, we developed our recipes batch after batch in our home kitchen. We’d distribute these to friends, get feedback, and try again.
As of now, we have two flavors of Eat Beer Bars: the Honey Almond IPA and the Chocolate Coffee Stout. But we have a lot in store with many experiments already underway in the ReGrained test kitchen. First and foremost, we have remade our two flagship recipes with newfound learnings and feedback incorporated from our first year operating commercially, and we’re so excited about how delicious they are. One of the reasons that we’re crowdfunding right now is to bring these upgraded recipes to market.
With ReGrained, you saw a problem and created a solution. How did you take your idea to the next level?
RG: We knew that we had a good idea, but we wanted to be sure we were intentional about how we went about creating a business. We exist to create win-wins for our customers, communities, partners and planet. We started small, testing recipes with friends and developing relationships with local suppliers, farmers and brewers. We’ve grown steadily and organically up to this point, and our Barnraiser campaign is our first big push to accelerate growth.
What’s next for ReGrained?
Marc Atkinson/Jesse Rogala
RG: With some R&D in the books, we have our new recipes ready to be scaled and launched. We’re also developing new 100-percent compostable packaging and automating our packaging process, which will enable us to spend more time actually baking and scale our output. With this ready, we’ll be able to grow beyond our current modest and local self-distribution.
Big picture: ReGrained will not be a granola bar company, but rather a company that currently makes bars. The subtlety in this difference is that you can expect all kinds of delicious, healthy and sustainable products coming out of our bakery as we grow. We are inspired by the seemingly endless possibilities to use this new ingredient.
How do you see ReGrained fitting into the big picture?
RG: By creating a more productive waste-stream solution for our brewing partners, we will be able to contribute to a more circular urban economy, while generating delicious and inherently sustainable food. As our cities grow, together we must figure out how to do more with less. For example, grain from beer production should be a part of the food waste conversation that has (finally) achieved mainstream attention. Cities are not just an economy, they are also an ecology. We’re here to help this ecology evolve. Our tagline may be “Eat Beer,” but our mantra is “Brew Good. Bake Good. Do Good.” As we like to say, our craft brewery friends own the first part, we own the second, and together we can do the third for our bodies, communities and planet.