Way To Re-Purpose, Sir!!!

Asheville biochemist turns brewery waste into brownies

Asheville biochemist searches for a solution to craft beers’ byproduct


Robert ‘Rusty’ Bryant tends to his Asheville Brew Bites booth alongside wife Mary during the Cool Craft Market at HandMade in America on Dec. 15. The Bryants’ small company sells brownies made from brewer’s yeast, the byproduct of beer-making.
Biochemist Rusty Bryant tried 42 versions of his brownie made from brewer’s yeast before he hit on the right recipe. He makes the brownies at Blue Ridge Food Ventures.

Asheville is increasingly known for its brewery scene, with bigger national beer-makers becoming part of the local economy.

Such big breweries produce plenty of waste and, at least locally, responsible disposal is a part of the brewing mission statement.

According to one local scientist, one possible avenue is to eat that waste.

Robert “Rusty” Bryant, a former biochemist with Schering-Plough Research Institute, is the co-owner with his wife of Asheville Brew Bites, a small company making brownies from spent brewer’s yeast, a byproduct of the brewing process. Bryant thinks his beer treats could make a big impact on both health and the recycling of the beer industry’s leftovers.

From beer to bites

Bryant first came to Asheville in 2010 to help his son, John Bryant, renovate the Hatchery Building in the River Arts District. Bryant knew nothing about the beer industry then, “other than opening a bottle of beer.”

Then, the future site of New Belgium Brewing was just a collection of lots in a flood zone nearby his son’s property. New Belgium, the third largest microbrewery in the country, is slated to begin primary construction on its new $150 million Asheville location in May. Sierra Nevada, the second largest brewery in the country, is test-brewing at its new East Coast facility in Mills River.

While Asheville’s Highland Brewing Co., which opened in 1994, creates 200 tons of spent yeast per year, Sierra Nevada and New Belgium breweries will each add 2,000 tons or more annually, according to Bryant.

For now, Bryant harvests yeast from Highland and mixes it with other ingredients at Blue Ridge Food Ventures to make a gooey brownie. He then sells his products at farmers markets and craft fairs.

Erica Nelson, the quality control specialist at Highland, says brewer’s yeast disposal is an issue with no current simple solution.

“We can’t just dump the yeast down the drain,” she said. “The city waste water treatment facility can’t handle that much of a biological oxygen demand.”

But unlike spent brewer’s grain, which cows readily snap up, yeast doesn’t do a bovine body good. “It’s 80 percent alive and creates gas in cows,” Bryant explained.


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