Think pizza makes everything better? You’ll love Swedish brewery Spendrups’ newest recycling project. Instead of throwing away the spent grain from making beer, they’re partnering with award-winning Stockholm pizzeria 800 Degrees to transform the so-called waste into a pizza crust. Together the companies founded Chiara Organica, which is launching their spent grain pizzas at music festivals around Sweden this summer.
Spent grain is the soaked grain leftover from brewing beer. Soaking draws out the sugars, which is part of the sweetness you taste when drinking beer. The resulting mash is usually discarded, but can also be dried for animal feed or repurposed for everything from food to fertilizer. It’s estimated that approximately 85% of brewery waste is in the form of spent grain. The majority of breweries could vastly reduce their waste products by reusing grain.
Chiara Organica’s beer pizza crust uses the malted barley leftover from Spendrups’ Norrlands Guld Ljus, a pale lager. At first, Eddi Törnberg, dough engineer for 800 Degrees, struggled to figure out how to incorporate the grain without throwing off the balance of gluten and water in the crust. In the end, Törnberg decided to sub 1/3 of the crust’s flour with the spent grain, enough to give it a noticeable flavor, but not so much as to overwhelm the properties of traditional pizza dough.
Not only does the crust smartly repurpose spent grain, it also boasts an impressive nutritional profile. Since the spent grain has leeched its sugars into the water during the malting process, this spent grain pizza is lower in sugar than pizza with a traditional white flour crust. It’s also higher in fiber and has the same amount of protein as an equivalent amount of almond flour.
But pizza isn’t the only healthy and sustainable use for spent grains. There are plenty of eco-conscious beer companies repurposing their leftover barley. Chicago-based bakery Hewn, incorporates both spent grain and beer into their dark and delicious loafs. ReGrained swaps oats for spent grain in their granola bars, which have only the slightest beer twang. Some breweries will use it as fertilizer and other use it as fish food. There are even cities figuring out how to use other beer by-products, such as wastewater, to generate energy.
While the Chiara Organica project from Sprendrups and 800 Degrees is exciting, it also opens the door to think about all the different ways breweries can recycle spent grain. Pizza is a fun start, but there’s plenty more out there to experiment with. Of course, it’s still exciting to think of having a beer pizza, with a side of beer of course.