No, not the circle of life… we’re talking about the life cycle of the grain we use to make beer: malted barley. From growing the barley to sending it back into the cycle as spent grain, let’s take a quick moment to highlight one of beer’s most important ingredients and how it flows through our system at Kalispell Brewing Company, and many breweries around the world.
KBC sources our malt from both a classic malting facility in Germany, and from Malteurop in Great Falls, Montana (in fact Montana has an impressive number of malting facilities in state!). At those facilities, dried barley is soaked to begin germination and then dried in a kiln to halt the process until it arrives at the brewery. Once the malt arrives, we process it through a mill, where the machine breaks open each grain of barley to help re-activate it. Skipping this process would make it difficult to extract sugars from the grain, which is something that gives beer distinct malty sweetness.
After the mill, the malt works its way through our decoction brewing system by mixing with water and hops to create a mash, that when filtered becomes wort, and at that point is ready to ferment with yeast to eventually become beer! After the filtering process, brewers remove the spent grain into large barrels to cool. You may have noticed the large bins of spent grain in the alley behind our brewery. It’s a small hint that the magic of the brewing process doesn’t stop there.
Foam to Farm
Craft beer drinkers may not realize it while sipping their ales and lagers, but virtually all grain used in making their brews gets an afterlife – much of it as feed for beef and dairy cows. Coined as “Foam to Farm”, many breweries prefer to put their spent grain to use, instead of simply tossing it. Cattle are best able to utilize the nutrients from spent grains, and it is what most farmers use them for, as a feed supplement. It can also be used in compost and fertilizer for gardeners.
KBC teams up with a local cattle farm to lesson our waste footprint and to help support our community of growers and ranchers. They simply pull up behind the brewery and we load our spent grains into their truck about once or twice a week. The “Foam to Farm” relationship is symbiotic: everyone benefits.