ReGrained Granola Bars – Go Green… With Beer
ReGrained is a California based company that creates some amazingly delicious granola bars from the “spent grain” that is a byproduct of brewing beer. Craft beer uses malts, barley, wheat and other grains to start the brewing process and is fully usable after these grains have been boiled to add sugars to beer bases. Many breweries toss out the grain, donate it to farmers to feed their livestock or who knows what else. ReGrained steps in to create a usable solution to multiple problems both breweries and everyday people face: waste and hunger.
I talked with Dan and Jordan, the owners of ReGrained and asked them tons of questions about these drool-inducing bricks of granola goodness they’re pushing from state to state. They don’t even have to worry about whoopin’ Rico.
Q: For those new to the brand and concept, what is ReGrained?
A: Through symbiotic partnerships with local San Francisco breweries, ReGrained upcycles barley grain that was already used to make beer and repurposes it as a baking ingredient. We build recipes around the flavor and texture of spent grain to create healthy, delicious, and sustainably minded baked goods with other locally sourced ingredients. We offer two styles of snack bars as our flagship products. Biting into our pale grain IPA bar, you’ll taste mostly honey and cinnamon with the added crunch contributed by almonds. A munch into our Stout bar offers strong notes of coffee balanced by semi-sweet chocolate that compliment darker roasted grain.
Q: Who runs things at ReGrained HQ?
Dan Kurzrock (Executive Grain Officer) and Jordan Schwartz (Chief Grainmaster)
Q: What inspired the creation of ReGrained? Are you guys homebrew advocates or dive bar junkies?
We got our start as avid homebrewers. Dan started brewing his freshman year at UCLA with a close friend, and was hooked on the hobby pretty much immediately. By senior year, Jordan could say the same. As many homebrewers do, we soon progressed from malt extracts began brewing “All Grain” style. Brewing the standard 5 gallons of homebrew requires ~15 lbs of grain on average, varying primarily by desired alcohol content. With a fraternity kitchen as a brewery in a college town with hardly any yards, let alone gardens, without access to a compost service, there was little to do with the leftover grain beyond turning to the dumpster. As sustainably minded business majors, this didn’t sit well, so we started baking bread in small batches for friends under the brand “Brewin’ Bread.” After all, as most curious homebrewers inevitably discover, spent grain is actually quite tasty. It did well as an ingredient in the loaves, but baking bread is time intensive and the result really should be enjoyed fresh. We wanted to create something that would maximize the offerings of spent grain, taste great, travel well, and stay delicious if accidentally left in a backpack and discovered later. We started playing around with granola recipes, and this eventually led to the creation of our bars. We had a supportive network of early adopters in our college community, and while taking an Entrepreneurship course together, we decided to rebrand as ReGrained and take a stab at putting our studies and passion to practice.
Q: How do you stay focused amid the craziness of being a small business owner? What advice do you have for others in your position / taking a similar path to yours?
Don’t be afraid to start small and let your business scale at a natural growth rate. Don’t get us wrong, growth is great, but it’s important to always think about smart growth. Quitting your job and jumping right into full time entrepreneurship is not a required part of starting a company. Instead, find a way prioritize your time enough to enable you to bring a viable product to market. As sales grow, so will your company. By starting as a Cottage Foods Organization, we are able to incubate ReGrained with low overhead and focus on the things that matter. For us, that means establishing partnerships with breweries/farmers/purveyors, perfecting recipes, innovating ways to store the spent grain, and growing our community of customers. We don’t see any reason to hurry to take on the big box players in the food industry. With the exception of health trends, humans really haven’t changed eating or drinking habits much in recent history. We believe there will always be a market for delicious and creative food and beverages (not to mention an ever-flowing supply of spent grain), so we can afford to be patient, start small, and focus locally. Unless you are trying to start the next race-to-IPO cloud company or app, you probably have time to do the same.
Q: I really could have used this info in undergrad when I was just starting out, I grew entirely too fast and had all the trouble in the world pulling back the reins. Reading did help in that process though, what was the last book you read? Did you do any reading that helped you guys launch your business?
It is hard for us to pick just one. Brewing Up a Business by Sam Calagione, the founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, was a great influence for us. At one point in the book, Sam describes his brewery’s relationship with a local farmer. The farmer would pick up Dogfish Head’s spent grain to use as feed for his cattle. The brewpub would then get the beef back and use it in their burgers, which they would serve on spent grain buns. That type of sustainable closed-loop thinking was an inspiration for ReGrained. Dogfish Head’s commitment to quality and willingness to just go for it is something we look up to as a brand. Beer School by Brooklyn Brewery’s Steve Hindy and Tom Porter was another great read filled with practical business insight set within the context of the brewing industry. To name a few others, The Lean Startup by Eric Riess and Start Something that Matters by Blake Mycoski were great.
Q: It’s great to see the positive impact you’re having on your environment. What’s on your vision board for ReGrained? Are there any plans for new flavors or new products?
The biggest strength of spent grain as a baking ingredient is its versatility. We will certainly venture into new flavors of bars, but we also envision a wide array of future products from cookies to breads, cereals, and more. Without giving too much away, lend your imagination to an Oatmeal Stout Cookie made with grains from an Oatmeal Stout or a Rye Bread made with grains from a Rye Ale.
Q: Cookies?! Sign me up, I’m buying on day one! If they’re anywhere near as good as your granola, it’ll be worth every penny. How do you feel about the growth of the craft beer market, another market based on the “little guy” taking on big money and seemingly having GREAT success?
Is this a trick question? In short, we love it! The beer industry at large is essentially an oligopoly. Approximately 80% of the domestic beer market is dominated by Anheuser-Busch Inbev and SABMiller. Consider the imported segment, and craft beer sales represent less than 10% by volume. To your point, the great news is that this number has been growing by about 1% year over year. In return, the big brewers have released a number of faux-craft beers that have been dubbed as “crafty” by the Brewer’s Association. This is a fascinating topic, and there is a lot of great literature on the web exploring its different angles.
Q: MESSAGE! Does your granola pair well with any brews that you’ve tried? One would assume that’s a match made in heaven since they’re essentially the same item in alternate forms.
Our bars are great washed down by a brew. In addition to an India Pale Ale, the honey and cinnamon in our IPA bar pairs well with a honey saison. Predictably, our Stout bar pairs well with most dark roasted stouts and porters. Keep in mind though that our favorite oat-sodas and barley-pops also have hops, yeast, and the sugars from the grain defining their flavor.
Q: A lot of folks think go Granola as a breakfast snack. How often to you find yourself chomping on a Regrained bar after the fast food imposed 10:30a breakfast cut off time?
Oh, we eat these bars all day long. Breakfast, mid-day, late afternoon, evening, during a ride or hike, on the mountains, after going to bars. They are a big part of our diet!
Q: Do you have any partnerships with breweries we might recognize?
We are proud to work with a few great breweries within the San Francisco Bay Area. We typically change it up depending on who is making what/when and the kind grains we want to include in a recipe. At the present, 21st Amendment in the city is a great partner. If you haven’t tried their beer, track some down, it is fantastic. We feel though that it is important to note that none of the breweries we work with are being blatantly wasteful in the management of their spent grain. Brewing beer inherently generates spent grain, it is simply how the process works. All breweries that we have approached with ReGrained’s creative alternative have been very supportive. Someday we’d love to open up our own brewery and divert all of our own grain in-house.
Q: That’s really interesting news. I’m a huge fan of 21st Amendment as well! Their Brew Free Or Die IPA is one of my favorites. Speaking of favorites, what are some great brews that are in your beer cellar right now?
They don’t seem to stay there for long! In our fridges we have a smorgasbord of PranQster (North Coast), Sneak Attack (21st Amendment), and Celebration (Sierra Nevada). Also have a bottle of Noble Rot (Dogfish Head), Speedway Stout (AleSmith), and a homebrewed Barley Wine set aside for a rainy day.
Q: I smell a beer trade in the future, I’ve got plenty of locals from this coast I can send over. What’s your favorite style? Your favorite beer?
Tough question. We’d have trouble answering that one even if it was asking us to pick a favorite brewery. For styles, we seem to often align on saisons, but that is a pretty broad category. Almanac makes a great Honey Saison, and Ommegang’s Hennepin is a staple. Evil Twin by Heretic is one of Dan’s personal local favorites.
Q: Oh man, Hennepin is definitely one of the craft beers I cut my teeth on. Many a 4-pk have found their way through my fridge, even with my growth as a drinker. It’s just so damn good! What are a few of your White Whales? Anything you’ve been hunting for that you’ve tried recently?
Still haven’t had the opportunity to try Pliny The Younger (Russian River). Pliny isn’t alone on our list of White Whales, but probably trumps the rest of the list.
Q: Good luck with Pliny, I see it plastered all over social media but I’m patiently waiting to chase it down as well. Some of these beers are like Bigfoot! Even when it’s said to be somewhere, you show up with the wallet ready and it’s nowhere to be found. In that same vein, where can people find your product? How can they get in touch with you?
ReGrained.com is a great place to start. No retail locations yet, but wholesale is on the road map for 2014. We’re active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Untappd too. If you’d like to write us, we’d love to hear from you at email@example.com.
Q: Anything you want to say to our audience? We want to provide a platform for you to let everyone know whatever you feel is important about what you have going on.
A big thank-you our supporters who have helped us get to where we are today and to those who will help us take ReGrained to the next level. We’re having a lot of fun and we have a big vision for where we’d love to take the company and the positive impact we know can create. You could say that we like to have our beer, and eat it too. We’d love for you to join us in doing the same!