Breweries: Increasing Feedstock—and Opportunity!

Breweries: Increasing Feedstock—and Opportunity!

We’ve always said ‘it takes a lot of beer to make good compost’, but these days we’re not only talking about beer for the paid employees, but the microbes too. Brewery feedstocks have increased over the years along with the growth of craft breweries (most recently up 8% and now 23% of the $111.4 billion US beer market*). With that growth comes great opportunity.

Breweries typically produce a handful of compostable feedstocks: spent grain, liquids, and food scraps. Spent grain is best utilized as an animal feed according to the EPA food recovery hierarchy and the economics usually follow accordingly. Farmers will typically pay all trucking costs to transport the grain to their farm, netting zero cost disposal to the brewery; whereas, composters will charge the trucking and a tipping fee.

Like all small businesses, breweries watch their costs and will usually seek out farmers. That said, sometimes farmers fall ill, their truck breaks or some other unforeseen mishap occurs, inhibiting collection and affecting brewery production. That’s where acting as a backup or overflow can be beneficial to the brewery and the composter. Some breweries send spent grain to us at Dirt Hugger, despite the increased cost, simply because we have consistent and reliable logistics.

Spent grains are usually the largest volume of feedstock available; however, liquids have proven the most valuable. Growing breweries can run into issues with their local wastewater treatment plants due to high Biological Demand (BOD) and Total Suspended Solids (TSS) liquids going down the drain. These issues often incentivize breweries to look for alternative cost effective solutions like composting.

We accept liquid feedstocks by pumping or vacuuming them into a 6000 gallon tanker. We charge a per gallon fee (18-30¢ per gallon) to the brewery to cover transportation and tipping. We then use the liquids for pre-PFRF moisture conditioning. We prefer to add liquid feedstocks through a water bar on our turner, but as a backup we use a water truck or dump the liquid on a bed of wood chips. Due to the heat and aeration of our piles we can lose 3-5% of moisture in the piles per day, and so the addition of revenue generating liquid is welcomed.

Breweries are consistent generators of high nitrogen, quality feedstocks.Building relationships for their current needs or contingencies can lead to lasting opportunities. No matter what feedstocks you take, we highly recommend including some form of beer trade too – happier employees, happier microbes, better compost.

Breweries we work with and support:

Full Sail
Wyeast Labs
Jester and Judge


Pierce Louis is a co-founder at Dirt Hugger, a 40,000 TPY composting company located in WA. At Dirt Hugger, Pierce serves as the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ focusing on marketing and finance, but leaving time to run loaders and screen compost.

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