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National Beer Day: image of barley field courtesy of AdobeStock

National Beer Day: Brewing Up Markets for Spent Grain

Nifa Authors
Lori Tyler Gula, Senior Public Affairs Specialist

Americans brew and drink a lot of beer. Approximately 202 million barrels of beer are produced domestically per year. That alcohol requires fermentable sugars, which come predominantly from malted barley.

Barley starts as a highly nutritious grain, known to be rich in protein, fiber and antioxidants. After the brewing industry borrows it to extract the least nutritious portion of the grain, what can be done with the leftover 4.7 million metric wet tons of a nutritionally potent grain known as brewers spent grain (BSG)? On National Beer Day, learn more about how NIFA-funded scientists are working on ways to utilize this rich resource to create new and better markets.

Scientists at the University of Nevada, Reno are investigating whether BSG could be a potential alternative feed for small and medium-sized livestock farms to reduce feed and production costs, and improve profitability. The research is particularly important as small and medium-sized farms often are located near urban areas where they struggle with high land prices and opportunity costs, high costs of feedstuff and a lack of information on alternatives feeds that could enhance their competitiveness. The exponential increase of the craft brewer industry has contributed to the increase and availability of BSG, which constitute a potential alternative feed source.

Michigan State University researchers are investigating using locally available BSG as a source of phytochemicals, which could be potential alternatives to existing growth-promoting technologies and antibiotics in the beef cattle industry. By utilizing low-cost BSG that is available year-round in Michigan, scientists theorize that BSG combined with barley could maximize starch utilization and skeletal muscle growth, thus improving feed efficiency and ultimately reducing production costs.

At Virginia Polytechnic Institute, researchers are working to produce high-value protein hydrolysates from BSG. Protein hydrolysates are a mix of amino acids created by splitting a protein with acid, alkali or enzyme. Protein hydrolysates, which are in powder form, are used in sports nutrition as nutrient and fluid replenishers, and with patients who are unable to consume ordinary food protein. The goal of this research is to develop a sustainable alternative protein hydrolysate source for humans in the form of protein-enriched beverages.

In partnership with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, and with the help of a $100,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant from NIFA, scientists at ReGrained Inc. of San Francisco, California, developed and patented a process for using BSG to create SuperGrain+, an upcycled sprouted ancient grain. SuperGrain+ resembles a toasted flour that can be used in a wide range of food products. The company offers SuperGrain+ pasta, puffs and bars.

Learn how NIFA is supporting the nation’s craft beer industry.

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Plant health, production, and products
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