Spent grain is just what it sounds like—beer-making leftovers that serve no real purpose and often go to waste. According to CraftBeer.com, spent grain can account for up to 85 percent of a brewery’s total by-product.
Kyler Ashley is pretty familiar with the stuff, considering that her parents, Keith and Brandi, run Allen-based Nine Band Brewing. Nine Band (the name refers to the number of stripes on an armadillo) opened in 2014 and recently won GuideLive’s “Beer Brawl 2015” contest. Nine Band’s beers are crafted on-site in the 5400-square-foot brewhouse, and the tap room is open every day for folks to come in and enjoy a Hoop Snake Hefeweizen or an award-winning Toad Choker Barley Wine.
Nine Band produces a lot of beer, and all that on-site brewing results in plenty of spent grain. Across the country, home-brewers and commercial brewers alike struggle to figure out just what to do with their oatmeal-like by-product. Some donate or try to repurpose it, but in many cases, it just ends up in landfills. “We usually give our spent grain to farmers for their cows and pigs for free,” Keith Ashley says.
His daughter, Kyler, came up with a better idea. Spent grain is bland, slightly sweet in flavor, and completely edible—people could consume it if they wanted, Keith says.
Kyler thought it would make a perfect agent for an all-natural dog biscuit. She got her hands on some of the spent grain and began to experiment. (Suffice it to say that KC, the family’s 4-year-old golden Lab, got more than his fair share of samples.)
Kyler is a senior at Lovejoy High School. Before a student can graduate, he or she must complete an epic senior project. It can be about almost anything, Kyler says—music therapy or house-painting or wherever a student’s interests or talents may lie. Kyler, from an entrepreneurial family, decided to use the project as a platform for her dog-biscuit business.
She got eggs from her aunt’s chickens and purchased flour and peanut butter. To get the project off the ground, she came up with a name (Paw Licking Treats), went to the court house and filed documents, and opened a business bank account. She created a website and Facebook page. She issued 50 free samples and asked people to fill out questionnaires about her product. Finally, after Kyler had sent all her ingredients to an animal lab in New Jersey for testing, she was ready to bake for profit. She began selling the biscuits for $1 each at her parent’s brewery during their regular dog-friendly weekend event, Pooches on the Patio.
“People would bring their dogs, drink beer, and buy the treats,” Keith says. “Every time she’s done it, she’s sold out. Most people will buy a few treats and have the dogs eat some of them there, and then carry the rest home. That got her thinking, ‘I’ve gotta start doing this more.’”
“My goal is to sell my natural dog treats in big-box retailers, like PetSmart,” Kyler says. “I’ll start the first quarter of next year trying to sell my product in retail stores.”
Before she goes to college in the fall (on a tumbling and acrobatics scholarship), Kyler will begin talks with boutique stores and small pet shop supply stores. Her younger brother, Kade, will help out by making the deliveries while she’s away at school. She’ll also have to get a bigger oven—currently, she can only produce about 30 treats in four hours, she says.
“My goal is to sell my natural dog treats in big-box retailers, like PetSmart,” she says. “I’ll start the first quarter of next year trying to sell my product in retail stores.”
Kyler isn’t sure exactly what the future will bring for Paw Licking Treats—or exactly what endeavor she’ll pursue after college. For the time being, though, she has plenty of happy canine customers.
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