Beer leftovers are a treat for pigs and cows in Routt County

Scott Franz
A drove of pigs waits to be fed by Happy Zacharda, of Yampa Valley Farms, on a farm in Milner. The pigs eat spent grain from Butcherknife Brewing Co.
Scott Franz

— There’s a good chance the next piece of pork you eat at Creekside Cafe & Grill owes some of its good flavor to the spent grains the pig ate from a local brewery in Steamboat Springs.

“It’s changed the flavor of the meats for the good,” Yampa Valley Farms owner Josh Kilbane said about the mash from Butcherknife Brewing Co. that he regularly feeds to his Berkshire, Duroc and Mangalitza pigs in Milner. “And the pigs love it. You wouldn’t believe how much they love it.”

Kilbane swears the mash tastes like oatmeal, and one of his employees can even guess which type of beer the spent grains were the byproduct of.

The growth of Steamboat’s craft beer industry is helping to fatten up several pigs and cows on farms all across Routt County.

After the breweries boil the sugars and starches out of the barley during the beer making process, they are left with thousands of pounds of wet, soggy grains.

So instead of throwing them away, all three breweries in Steamboat are donating them to local farmers.

At Butcherknife, Kilbane picks up anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 pounds of the wet spent grain in a week. Whatever isn’t enjoyed by the pigs can be used for compost.

For many years, the mash from Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill has been donated to Larry and Mary Kay Monger and fed to their cattle.

The grains are loaded into a 55 gallon bucket and taken to their ranch in the Lower Elk River Valley.

“The cows love it,” Mary Kay Monger said. “It’s like a dessert. It tames them down.”

She added that the mash is high in protein.

And at Storm Peak Brewing Co., the mash is going to livestock on Shane and Forest Yeager’s ranch.

All of the local breweries are participating in a centuries-old tradition of brewers providing their spent grains to local farmers.

The brewers save money by not having to dispose of their byproduct, and farmers get to use it to supplement what they feed their animals.

“It’s good for everybody,” Butcherknife owner Mark Fitzgerald said about the relationship he has with the local farmers.

The Food and Drug Administration last year considered regulations that would have added regulations on spent grain and made the required handling of the byproduct more similar to the handling of food for humans.

Breweries across the country opposed the regulations, which were not adopted.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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