Edible Innovations: Upcycling Spent Beer Grain into Tasty Granola Bars

Energy & Sustainability Food & Beverage Home Science
Edible Innovations: Upcycling Spent Beer Grain into Tasty Granola Bars

From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Food Innovation Program — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.

Where some saw waste, Dan Kurzock and Jordan Schwartz saw an opportunity. An opportunity to both support the Bay Area brewers we love and take a crack at the super food industry. What they developed is sure to catch any beer lovers eye: a healthy granola bar named Regrained: Eat Beer (@ReGrained). It comes from an upcycled granola made from a college homebrew set up.

If you have ever taken a tour through a local craft brewery, or have tried setting up your own homebrew station, then you may have noticed quite a bit goes into making a delicious swig of beer. Barley, water, hops, and yeast beer is mashed, sparged, boiled, cooled and fermented until the sugar is consumed and released into alcohol. In its final stages, it is carbonated and then packaged into all your different bottles, kegs, and cans.

This ends with a (hopefully) delicious beer, and a lot of used brewed grain that are packed with flavor, nutrition, and (more importantly) not much sugar. Referred to as “spent,” this grain is of no use to a brewer.  However, for Kurzock and Schwartz’s company ReGrained, spent has endless potential. They take the spent and then mix it with quinoas, oats, and almonds. What you get is a savory and sweet granola bar you can grab on the go.

So, who are these entrepreneurial makers, and how did they develop into the businessmen that they are today?

Dan Kurzock is the self-designated “Mr. Outside.” He is the charismatic face of ReGrained who promotes sales, maintains partnerships, and sprouts grain. He happily bumps up his clients with ReGrained’s creative products and drives the enthusiasm amongst their partnerships. Long before his passion for beer developed into a full-blown savory and sweet snacks business, Dan was blossoming into an entrepreneur. It all started for him in high school. He developed his own niche novel merchandise and sold it to all his high school friends. He has been continuing to develop his passion for communication, merchandising, and sales ever since. At UCLA, Dan got his first degree in Economics. He then moved over to Presidio Graduate School to grab his Masters in Sustainable Business while dabbling and perfecting the art of homebrewing his own beer.  Matched with his sales driven personality, he is the ideal fit to handle the outside elements of ReGrained. He is perfectly balanced by his partner, Jordan Schwartz.

With a similar degree in business economics from UCLA, Schwartz brings plenty of experience and enthusiasm to ReGrained. As “Mr. Inside,” Schwartz uses his experience in sustainably focused food industries to revolutionize the superfood world. As sales go up and up, the need to grow in production and procurement needs to match. Schwartz handles it all, along with Research & Development, and Operations. He started off with a food group in San Francisco that owned several restaurants and a grocery store. Their focus in sustainability helped develop his background as an upcycle guru who brands businesses with a local and sustainable vibe. His desire to succeed at what he loves to do is illuminated by his work in developing new recipes and building the back end of the business.

As you might have noticed, ReGrained and its makers are not your run of the mill super food producers. They have created a near closed loop system in their beer-making process that is edging closer and closer to zero waste. They are revolutionizing the way we think of food and its origins through the concept of upcycling. Upcycling is a little different than your classic recycling projects, because it completely diverts waste without breaking down the original item into a raw material.

Usually, a new product that is made from recycling is of lesser quality than the original product. In upcycling, you do not break anything down. Instead, you take the materials you have and rework them into something new that is of greater quality. Rather than allowing the leftover beer to fall into your compost buckets (or worse, a local landfill), these makers scoop them up and use them. They are taking the waste from local breweries, dehydrated grain, and turning it into a tasty alternative. The results are delicious snacks, like their Chocolate Coffee Stout bar, that leaves both beer sauvignons and health food focused foodies stopped in their tracks.

The grains that are not turned into snacks are milled into flour and used within the company. Most small craft brewers in the Bay Area share the same interest as ReGrained and want to create their own closed loop breweries. Emulating ReGrained’s model of production will allow companies to edge closer to a closed loop system.

You may be wondering what happens to all the grain that is left over from large breweries, especially with the rise of the niche market of specialty craft beers, without companies like ReGrained. Breweries used to be placed on the outside of major urban areas, closer to agricultural development. It made sense, seeing as the ingredients came from farms. The old style of brewing allowed for its own closed loop system, in which the used grain was provided to farmers for their animals. However, in the last ten years, boutique breweries have begun to crop up in the middle of urban cities.

This expansion moves breweries away from standalone warehouses towards restaurants and bars. Customers want to experience sipping a cold beer that was brewed only a few feet from where they sat. Nowadays, a quick walk through a big city like San Francisco will show you a craft brewery on almost every corner. Beer enthusiasts have flooded these store fronts looking for the newest taste, or a new sustainably sourced beer. While this has helped blossom homebrewing and created a larger market for more craft brewers, it has slowed the amount of grain that can be disposed via the old system.

Instead of a brewer to farmer connection, more brewers are opting to toss their already brewed grain waste into the compost or simply ship it off to a landfill with their other waste. It is not even necessarily because the breweries are uninterested in sustainable waste practices. However, the cost of shipping spent grain and lessening environmental impact is outweighed by the monetary benefits of typical waste disposal. Kurzock and Schwartz capitalized on urban companies needing a cheap means to get rid of their spent grain by buying it.

The bars themselves are something to marvel at, especially if you are looking for a quick snack on the go that is both healthy and filling. Spent grain is chock full of all your essential nutrient needs without being carbo-loaded with sugars and preservatives. The product itself is well reviewed, and described as having a toasty flavor with aromas of your favorite beers. They have a surprisingly strong consistency that lends itself to a chewy and tender bar. Outdoor enthusiasts, beer lovers, and foodies all agree that the sustainably made product is developed without sacrificing any quality or flavor. And in case you were wondering, these tasty treats do not deliver a beer buzz.

These young men may have started making with a desire to have their own beer, but they have grown to address larger social issues like food waste and sustainable urban production. Their bars may not be certified organic as the spent comes from many different breweries (not all of them use organic malt), but ReGrained is searching for partners who are certified. The additional ingredients that go in the bars are both locally sourced and certified organic. Kurzock and Schwartz have raise the bar, in both business practices and products.

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Chiara is fascinated by food as a means to impact bodies, minds, and environment. She has studied international business in three different countries, and is an alumni of the Food Innovation Program and US Director at the Future Food Institute.

Based in California, she is also a Research Scholar at Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, working on building the first comprehensive Internet of Food to enable food care through food systems semantics. She is a selected member of Barilla Center Food Nutrition Foundation, a Research Affiliate at Institute For The Future, Board Member at Maker Faire and selected member of the Global Shapers, a young global network of innovators promoted by the World Economic Forum.

She is passionate about social entrepreneurship and impact investing, and aims to leave her mark on society.

View more articles by Chiara Cecchini


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