Craft beer culture celebrates many important philosophies — those include entrepreneurial spirit and bold beer products, but also community support and environmentalism. While the first two are aimed at making a big impression on beer drinkers, the latter two are about helping encourage local businesses and citizens. A great example of this comes from a story in the Durango Herald, which details the Durango Compost Co., a local provider of organic waste recycling. The company’s mission is to divert compostable materials from the landfill while creating a valuable product for local gardeners, landscapers and farmers.
One such organic byproduct the company capitalizes on is craft brewing mash. Mashing is the process by which malted grains (most commonly barley) are used to convert starches, and potentially the starches of any other grains used, into fermentable sugars. The addition of water and heat optimize the conversion action of the enzymes found in malted grains. The mash is the boiled grain from which brewers derive the sugary liquid. Instead of taking its mash to the dump or selling it, Ska Brewing Co. gives its mash to Durango Compost Co. to feed its cattle. According to the aforementioned Durango Herald article:
The mash is from a pre-alcohol step in the beer-making process. It is the boiled grain from which brewers derive the sugary liquid to add yeast and make alcohol, said Steve Jung, a rancher outside Bayfield who picks up about 3,000 pounds of beer mash from Ska Brewing Co. every day of the week. Every cow in his 200-count herd is then fed about a coal shovel full of the mash. The cows primarily subsist on grass. Because the carbohydrates have been boiled out of the grain from Ska, his cows mostly derive protein and fiber from a substance that looks like oatmeal.
Of course the favor works both ways. According to the article, Jung shows his appreciation by giving beef to Ska Brewing, not to mention the brewery doesn’t have to waste the time or money finding an alternative or landfill option. It’s a great story of neighbor helping neighbors, recycling and environmentalism and damn good organic compost and craft beer.
“In the winter, it’s hot and steamy when they get it,” Jung said. “[The cattle] don’t get any happier. It’s a real treat because it’s pretty hot.”