Spent Malted Grain From Brew Pubs?

gonebananas_gwMarch 10, 2008

I happened to drive by a local brewpub on trash collection day a few days ago. I covetously looked at seven or eight 30-gallon garbage pails filled with wet bloated grain. Beer doesn't have much protein in it so I'll bet that most of the nitrogen (and sulfur and phosphorous and potassium) are still in that discarded waste. It looked like just the ticket for the local highy leached sterile sands, perhaps under leaf mulch to keep down any smell and discourage varmints and birds. Does anyone have any experience with this? (A search on "brewery" yielded little.)

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All I know about it is that hops after use in beer making are absolutely toxic to dogs. Dogs will eat the stuff, and it will kill them.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 6:36AM
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The spent hops from breweries make an excellent mulch in a garden. They also have been used as cattle feed so I am not too sure about them "killing" dogs. Arnold Arboretam, Harvard University, used spent brewery hops as a mulch with really good success way back in the 1940's. Spent brewery hops are a large part of Miorganite, even today.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 7:41AM
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If you want proof of hops toxicity to dogs, kimmsr, do a search. It is documented.

Copied from Earth Clinic:

From a list of edibles poisonous to dogs: "Hops  May cause panting, elevated temperature, increased heart rate, seizures and possibly death."

Copied from FallBright.com:

"Hops Toxicity in Dogs:

Brewer's Alert

We have received a report from a brewer whose dog died as a result of eating the spent hops from a 15-gallon batch of Irish Stout.

Unbeknownst to most vets, at least eight cases of hop toxicity in dogs have been recorded by the National Animal Poison Control Center at the University of Illinois in Urbana, IL. Seven of the dogs have been Greyhounds, with one remaining case being a Labrador Retriever cross.

Ingestion of hops results in malignant hyperthermia, an uncontrollable fever. The first symptom to become obvious to an owner is heavy panting. Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) will also be present, at up to 200 beats per minute. Temperature may rise as quickly as a 2 degrees F every five minutes. Carbon dioxide levels in the blood rise dramatically. Recommended treatment seems to be cold water baths to keep temperatures down, and a quick trip to the vet for temperature control and antibiotics.

The most basic lesson to be learned from all this is that brewing chemicals, ingredients, and spent materials of all types should be stored, handled and disposed of properly. Animals and children make toys and food out of anything they can reach. ..."

If the original poster doesn't have kids or pets, by all means compost the stuff. Otherwise, I think better safe than sorry would apply.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 8:38AM
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I was a homebrewer for years. We had moved into a home that was moved to the property we bought. The soil was red clay, total garbage. I layered 3" of topsoil over the clay, and the grass grew until the sun baked the clay. I began putting all my trub, ( the remainders from the boiling of the grains, hops etc.) onto one area of the yard. In two years, that area flourished, the folks that live there now use that area for a flower garden. Now, I would compost the stuff, but yes, it is very good for the soil.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 11:43AM
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feed it to a couple hogs, put the manure on the garden, eat the hogs. The small farmers line up around here for those goodies.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 11:54AM
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It's the malt, not hops, though some hops may be in it.
I thought of the hog-feed use too but can't do that here.
I'm encouraged by the success in the hard red clay soil.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 12:48PM
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hamiltongardener(CAN 6a)

Oh my gosh!

Thank you for the idea, there is a brewery close to here and I never even thought of it.

I wonder if I should just go in and ask for a bucketful at the office or go around the back and wait for the guys to come out on their smoke break?

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 6:45PM
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Karchita(WA Z8)

My DH is a big time and long time home brewer. While I do enjoy his beers, I really enjoy his beer-making byproducts, too!

The main byproduct of brewing is spent grain. Very few hops are used (proportionately speaking) and once they are wet, they mush into next to nothing. Malt is like a sugar and dissolves, so there isn't anything leftover. However, there is quite a bit of grain leftover. To give you an idea of the proportions, when DH makes a batch of beer, he usually has about a 5 gallon bucket of wet spent grain for me but the hops are just a handful of slimy glop.

I would check to see what exactly the brew pub is throwing out. Most would have a plan to dispose of spent grain because they produce so much of it and it is in demand because farmers feed it to cattle. I would imagine pigs would eat it too. I have been to quite a few brewery tours (aren't I a nice wife? and it makes for leverage for when I want to go garden touring ...) and it seems they would rather donate it to farmers who will haul it away than pay to have it taken away by a refuse service. Maybe what your brew pub is throwing out is hops because they have comparatively little of it, but maybe for some reason it is grain.

I use the grain in my compost bins and it must be high in nitrogen because it really heats things up pronto.

Sometimes DH just spreads it out on a vacant garden bed and it certainly helps the soil, but I kinda worry about attracting rats so I throw a little soil over it or dig it in a bit. I really prefer to use it to make compost; it is gold for that.

As for the toxicity of hops (not spent grain), I don't know for sure, but it does seem probably that it wouldn't be good for dogs or anyone else to eat especially in concentrated form, like post-brewing. You could certainly compost it, though, and I bet it would be good for that but a bit wet.

Hope that helps!

I haven't been around here in ages ... hope you don't mind me barging in.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 8:25PM
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urbanfarmertim(5b London, ON)

I am a homebrewer, and I can tell you that spent malt is an excellent green to add to your compost pile. The first winter after we moved into our new house, I didn't have any composters set up, so I piled all my spent malt in a corner of the yard, thinking I'd spread it on the lawn in the spring, or use it in a composter once I got one made. Well, come spring, it heated up like nobody's business, turned into a pile of goo and stank to high you-know-what. The only other compost material I've personally seen do that is fresh grass clippings.

FWIW, disposing of spent malt is a topic that occasionally arises in brewing circles. Many brewers compost it, and many others dry in on the driveway and then spread it on their lawn. Good results have been reported (and experienced by myself) using both methods.

I think it goes without saying, but spent malt doesn't keep or store well unless it is dried. In damp form use it right away. And in the compost it usually heats up and breaks down rapidly, so vermin won't be a problem (I have more trouble with straw if there's grain in it).

BTW, there's no issue with children. I've got 3 under 10 and they can play on the lawn while and after I spread it with no adverse effects. And while I have heard about the issue with hops and dogs, I think it's really only an issue if you're just getting large quanitites of hops without any malt. From a commercial source, this could be a possibility.



    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 11:34PM
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fertilizersalesman(z6 PA)

Distillers grains are commonly used for animal feed. On a dried basis they are between 27% and 29% protein meaning the material contains roughly 4.5% nitrogen. It also contains 0.75% phosphorus, 0.27% calcium, 0.85% potassium. 0.3% sulfur, and 0.34% magnesium.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 8:29AM
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Lorna it is not the hops, or other grains, that would be toxic to dogs but the alcohol that might remain. Spent brewery waste is fed to cattle, pigs, chickens, sheep, goats, horses with no problem so the toxic affects most likely are more related to the quantity fed the dog than just the fact this was brewery waste. Dogs get sick and die from eating garbage.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 8:16AM
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Poison control lists hops as toxic to dogs. It doesn't say anything about barley, malt or any other brew by product. I saw a veterinary alert posted in a vet journal about hops.

All mammals cannot tolerate all foods. Raisins are poisonous to dogs, and grapes, too, according to the poison control list. Quantity consumed versus the weight of the dog would, of course, be a factor as to whether a dog dies from consuming listed foods.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 3:21PM
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PaulNS(NS zone 6a)

Dog breed seems to be a factor - greyhounds are particularly sensitive. A google search of hops + dogs + toxicity turns up enough reliable reports to suggest hops, even spent hops, are, like chocolate, a bad thing to feed to dogs.

If I were composting spent grain - and I would, they sound like an excellent n-source - I'd bury them deep in the pile.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 4:45PM
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urbanfarmertim(5b London, ON)

kimmsr - There is no alcohol in spent grain, and usually not in hops. Water is mixed with grain, drained off, and then boiled together with hops. After the boil, the hops are removed, and the resulting liquid is cooled and then fermented with yeast. It is during the fermentation that the alcohol is formed, but both the hops and the grain are generally discarded before this. In special situations hops are added to the fermenter, in which case the hops would contain some alcohol, but it would be a very small percentage of the total hops used, and in all likelihood any alcohol would volitilize (is that a word?) away before you ever got your hands on them. Spent grains never contain alcohol, and brewery waste would easily contain at least 95% spent grains

paulns - if I had close access to a large supply of spent grain, I'd most certainly go there instead of Starbucks every day! As it is, Labatts doesn't have a "grains for gardeners" program, so Starbuck's it is :o)



    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 11:41PM
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fertilizersalesman(z6 PA)

Raw grains are malted (sprouted) and heated to convert the starches to sugars. The malt is cooked in a soupy mix with hops (if making beer) etc. This is cooled, the solids (distillerÂs grains) removed and yeast is added. After fermenting the liquid is filtered from accumulated yeast and any remaining solids. If it is beer it gets a shot of sugar for carbonation and bottled, or if it is liquor it is distilled to remove the alcohol.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 8:26AM
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PaulNS(NS zone 6a)

Tim! I walked past that brewery many times. Have you thought of going in there to ask? Wonder what they do with the stuff?

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 8:44AM
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urbanfarmertim(5b London, ON)

Oh, I imagine if I walked in there with 2 empty 5 gal pails they'd get a snicker out of it!

Actually, I've been brewing for 10 years now (not counting what I did at BOP places before that) and I've still never been in there for a tour. Really should take a look and see how the big boys do it.

I have no idea what they do with the spent malt, or if they even mash in there anymore. A lot of the big breweries are going to hop oils for most of their hops, and it wouldn't surprise me if they used concentrate instead of malt. (ie. malted elsewhere)

Either way, I'm right in the city, so I wouldn't be able to compost too much of it. If you overdo it, it's as bad as manure :o)



    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 6:50PM
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i know this thread is now old, but i just stumbled upon it looking for the c/n ratio of the spent grains. i am very surprised to see that nobody has mentioned anything about properly composting these grains. everybody talks about the stench and how stinky it is, but hasn't anybody successfully composted the stuff by adding sufficient quantities of carbon? i suppose it would be tricky, as the grains are very fine, and most c sources are pretty course. i was thinking of putting some bails of hay through the shredder, moistening them first so as to avoid too much dust. but this method seems a little too time consuming, and straw's expensive, unless you "got the hook-up". and i don't yet. besides, that's a lot of work just mixing the ingredients together thoroughly enough to avoid giant nitrogen pockets...
anyway, i've tried composting it mixed with horse manure, and i added some carbon but i didn't have enough. it wasn't goo, but it smelled pretty bad of ammonia. i've also used it as a thin top-dressing, mostly on the pathways in the yard. once i let it sit in the barrels overnight, and it was reeking in the morning. nauseating. i could see how eating THAT would kill a dog.
i think that if i can get more, i will try putting it under a mulch of wood chips. i will also try to muster up a bunch of carbon, and use it as a sheet-mulch to make a "lasagna garden".
but if i could, i'd run it all through a giant chipper, alternating it with a fluffy carbon source like straw or dead leaves, and pile it up 7 feet high.
all over the entire planet....

if someone knows the math to figure out ideal quantities of given ingredients in compost pile, i'd be interested to know how much straw would be needed per yard of brewery mash...

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 7:49PM
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I have started brewing and I wanted to comment on feeding spent grains to dogs, and hops toxicity.

I do not know if hops (or what levels) are lethal to dogs. I do know that hops are not introduced into the process of brewing with the spent grains. The hops are introduced *after* the spent grains are removed from the process so the 'spent grains' should be free from hops - unless the brewer is messing up the process.

for what it is worth.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 2:19PM
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coffeehaus(7a Central VA)

I just attended a biological farming conference and had the opportunity to listen to a gifted speaker who vermicomposts in Milwaukee and he said that the red wiggler worms in his compost piles go crazy for the discarded brewing grains from a local commercial brewer. He said that they thrive on the protein and simple sugars in the grains and adds the grains to shredded cardboard, shredded paper and fresh food waste to produce compost and worm castings on a grand scale.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 4:50PM
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Most home brewers are just making ales as it is very difficult and equipment/time consuming to make lagers or pilsners due to the temperature controls/cooking times for malted grains and barley and the cold fermentation they need. The hops are added to the wort or boil, and cooked along with any added grains for flavoring/bitterness. Most homebrewers use liquid sugar supplies vs malted grains / barleys - that is the difference between brewing ales and pilsners/lagers. So yes, Matilda, there is usually hops mixed into the trub of homebrewers, it would be very sweet, and dogs could and would eat it. TiMo

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 12:15PM
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Rootdoctor is wrong! I am an experienced home brewer and the hops and spent grain never come in contact with one another. The grain is heated with water which is called mashing, the wort which is the sweet liquid is collected and the spent grains are removed from the process at this point. I am an all grain brewer which means I brew exactly as a large scale brewery does. The wort is then boiled and hops are added. The wort is cooled and yeast is added. I have 3 Labrador retrievers and mix spent grain with their dry dog food at feeding time and also make dog bones with it, they absolutely love it! Also many home brewers make lagers as well as ales it is the exact same process but lagers are fermented at lower temperatures like in a spare refrigerator. The hops NEVER come in contact with the malted barley or grain! Rootdoctor is completely wrong in his post above and I cant believe someone would post something they have no clue about!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 10:21PM
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You are making lagers, from the sound of it. Most homebrewers start out with ales, using pre-made syrups and maybe some grain for coloration, a little flavor, but nor for alcohol content. You need to mash to get the sugar out of the grains. Making beer the way you do, and most breweries, you are correct the hops are added after you boil the wort. With the kits, and most starting brewers,the hops are boiled along with the syrup and any added grains. I started to try and mash my own, but I found out I wasn't that dedicated. Still, I homebrewed for 7 years, and do not stand corrected. Maybe you are too Irie at the moment - eh? Look it up, google it, read a book, or better yet, look at the instructions for a brewing kit. Look below, straight from a homebrewing site.
Hops are flowers that add BITTERNESS, FLAVOR, and AROMA, to beer. The bitterness provides a balance to the brew. The amount of BITTERNESS depends of the type of hop(the alpha acid content) and the length of time in the boil(cooking process-- about 40+ minutes). FLAVORING by hops comes from adding hops to the brew near the end of the boil.(20-15 minutes). AROMA is achieved adding at the last 2 minutes or by DRY HOPPING or adding hops during last of the fermentation before bottling. Hops also act as a preservative. A pleasantly bitter brew is a better beer. Don't think of bitter being as bad. Buy some better bottled beers between brewing and bottling your brew batch and taste for bitterness, body, and bouquet

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 3:58PM
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Sorry, that sounded brash. Stand served, we're both correct. The only time hops would be in with the grain, is if it is not a malted grain, and therefor used mostly as coloring, or some fullness/flavor. Like new or in my case,not wanting to mash my own grain and using syrups.

Have a good day TiMo

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 5:19PM
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urbanfarmertim(5b London, ON)

I don't recall the source, but on my C-N list (NPK) I have:

Brewery wastes 1.0 .5 .05 and
Barley (grain) 1.75 .75 .5

My experience with composting malted grain suggests that about a 2:1 ratio (2 parts straw by volume to 1 part brewing malt) would be about right.

The toxicity of hops to dogs comes up in brewing circles every now and then. While there seems to be a concensus that hops *are* toxic to dogs, there doesn't seem to be any concensus about what quantity of hops causes dogs problems. As such, it would probably make sense to only feed malt that is known to be hop free to your dog.

For the most part, you can assume that the grains and the hops are kept separate in the brewing process. Who knows if they get mixed up when they're disposed of...



    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 3:11PM
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So do you guys dumpster dive for these spent grains or just ask the guy at the front like you do at starbucks for UCG's?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 5:24PM
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darth_weeder(z7 NY)

what works for me, assuming it is a brew pub, is to stop in and have a beer or three and wait for an opportune time to ask the brewer what he does with the spent grains and if you could have them.
Most brewers I have met are friendly and if grains are available they will tell you when they are brewing next, and what would be a good time to pick them up.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 1:46PM
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Has anyone heard of using spent hops or spent barley grains to feed fish. I have received information indicating that it can be toxic, and also have received information that it is an excellent source of nutrition for fish.

Seems similar to the varying information of these ingredients with regard to the toxicity to dogs.

Any info would be greatly helpful

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 12:23PM
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BSG contains in dry weight percent: 16.8% cellulose, 27.8% lignin, 28.4% hemicellulose, 1.35% acetyl groups, 4.6% ash, 15.25% proteins and 5.8% extractives.

It's a high-protein feed additive. The microbrewers around here mostly have arrangements with pig or chicken farmers to take the BSG for feed.

The big breweries in Mexico that I worked with had enough volume that they dried the BSG and sent it to feedmills, or had a pig or chicken producer next door that used the BSG directly.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 2:35PM
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Hops and barley play heck with the microlife in the water of ponds. Some gardners with ponds that would algae up actually used barley to kill the algae. Both also will destroy many beneficial bacteria in the water. TiMo

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 8:19PM
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Just going to throw my 2 cents in...while in Alaska I gardened at the local community garden. We recieved TONS of spent grains from a local brewery every week. They composted it, mulched with it, etc. It also had large chunks of white powdery stuff. When I asked about it, they said it was BT (if I remember correctly). That might be problematic for pets or ?? But I don't know if that's a common practice for microbrewers.
Man, I miss that stuff...

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 12:18PM
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Wow, this is old, but I'm going to comment anyway. Irie was totally correct, Rootdoctor is somewhat correct but a bit off topic; the hops go into the boil and should not touch the mash, which produces the spent grain we are looking to compost. Sounds like Rootdoctor is an extract brewer, in which case, yes, you might only use a little grain for coloration added to your can-kit. More than likely the amount of grain used for coloration would be negligible. All-grain brewers do not use extract kits; in our homebrew club about 90% brew all-grain. There should not be any hop material in the grain. And we do not brew strictly lagers, we brew ales, lagers, meads, ciders, and just about any other fermented beverage you can imagine, and we do it all-grain or all natural (honey and apples for meads and ciders), never from a kit.
Many brewers/breweries also use hop bags for their hop additions, so the hops never actually become free floating in the wort.
Yes, hops are highly toxic to dogs, but the grain is not, and is commonly used as a nutritive filler in dog food(thus, dogs find brewer's grain very tasty). We grow four varieties of hops in our yard, and our dog has never shown any interest in munching on them (they are a beautiful climber).
If you are looking to get spent grain from a brewer, there should not be hops mixed in to the grains, though it doesn't hurt to ask. Microbreweries do not work with extract kits. If you are an extract brewer and want to compost what little grain you use, and do not use hop bags, I would recommend composting in an area your dog cannot get into. Most of the hop resins have been boiled into the wort by that point, but they might still give your dog a tummy ache, and you a sore back from scrubbing the floors post-tummy ache.
Great ideas for drying and spreading the grains, I've been adding them to my composter, but we brew so often that we can't compost fast enough.

6-years all-grain brewer
15 years, in the animal healthcare industry (B.S. in Animal Science)
20 years gardening

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 9:46AM
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snickerzosu is dead-on. There are only two ways that hops would ever come into contact with the spent grain: 1.) the brewery is using a technique called 'mash hopping', which is seldom used. or 2.) they are combining their post-boil trub (coagulated proteins and hop residue) with their spent grain pile. It's pretty rare that a pro brewer would be mash hopping, as it's just not that common of a process and the cost vs. effect payoff just isn't that beneficial. Regardless, just ask the question before getting your spent grain.

As a homebrewer, I usually use anywhere from 12 to 20 lbs of grain (dry) per batch. I dump my mash tun in a sunny part of my side yard and allow it to dry for a few days before using it. The nasty smell comes from lactobacillus bacteria that live on the grain. If allowed to sit moist for a day or so, the lacto kicks in and makes itself known quickly. Aside from its gardening benefits, I've also heard that chickens love the stuff. To paraphrase one homebrewer / chicken farmer: "they gorge themselves and then sit around for a few days squirting out the best eggs you've ever tasted".

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 1:13PM
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chudak(10 San Diego)

As the former brewmaster for a brewpub I can tell you that our spent grain NEVER contained hops.

Spent grain comes from the mash tun where the malted barley is mixed with hot water and 'stewed' to allow the natural enzymes in the malt to convert the starches in the grain into simple sugars that the yeast can then consume.

After draining and sparging (rinsing the grain bed with hot water to extract the sugary solution) the mash tun is drained and the moist grain is shoveled into barrels and either tossed into the dumpster or hauled away by a local farmer for use as feed.

Hops are added to the brew kettle, a completely different vessel, and boiled in the sweet wort that is the product of the mashing process mentioned above. Most small brewers use pelletized hops in the kettle, which are basically pulverized hop flowers that are extruded into pellets that look like rabbit food. After being added to the kettle they essentially disintegrate into very small particles. They end up going into the sewer at the end of the brew process, with the rest of the trub (coagulated protein) at the bottom of the kettle after the run off of the hot wort into the fermenter.

The only time most small breweries use whole hops is either in a hop back (small vessel that the hot wort is run through before it hits the wort chiller and ends up in the fermenter) or when dry hopping certain beers in the conditioning tank. In both cases, the small amount of wet hops usually ends up in a regular trash can, not in the barrels of spent grain.

What does all of this mean? It means that the likelihood that there are hops in the spent grain from the local brewery is virtually nil. If there are hops in the grain it will likely not be mixed in but will be a discrete layer thrown in after being used in the hop back and easily removed and discarded. If you aren't sure all you have to do is ASK the brewer.

In other words, the risk to your dogs from taking spent grains from a local brewery (assuming that you can actually get any...it's usually spoken for) is essentially non existent.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 4:21PM
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I have used barley from beer breweries now and in the past.

Before collecting, I ask the ingredients. I have only found pure barley and other grains to be the ingredients.

For most of my use, I dry the barley, grind it up finely, coarser than flour, feed it to chickens, Vermicomposting worms, and the lawn. It is most excellent for all involved.

My dogs, chickens and worms eat the mashed up barley straight with no harm. It also composts just fine.

If allowed to mold in a damp state, it will break down on it's own; the worms thrive on moldy or ground barley.

Cattle, pig and foul ranchers pick it up by the semi load. It is also in high demand by commercial composters.

Workers at the breweries are usually very accommodating to fill containers for personal use!

This post was edited by Stormygale on Mon, May 6, 13 at 17:33

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 5:02PM
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Been looking for an answer to this question for a while now. Still no definitive answer.

For one, to respond to the other brewers on this topic. Yes it is possible that there are hops in the spent grains. Its a process called mash hopping. Some commercial breweries do this for some beers (stone for example). I believe it to be an uncommon practice however. Generally, if doing mash hopping, it would most likely be undetectable by examining the grain afterward when using pelletized hops.

I recently made beer using this technique. I used 2 oz of hops in the mash with 33 pounds of grain. I collected the spent grain and am planning to give to a pig farmer.

So the question is, are hops dangerous to pigs? I know they can be deadly to dogs causing malignant hyperthermia type condition. I'm told pigs can develop malignant hyperthermia for other reasons, but I do not know if hops are directly toxic to them or not.

Does anybody know? I'm trying to be ecologically responsible with my brewing waste, but do not want to harm future bacon.

Thank you.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2013 at 2:16PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

Beer made with hops has been known to cause death in humans.;-)

    Bookmark   December 2, 2013 at 2:36PM
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    Bookmark   December 3, 2013 at 11:30AM
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