It didn’t take long after we started homebrewing for me to feel like I should find another use for all the spent grain we ended up throwing away on brew days. Most 5-gallon recipes called for at least 10 pounds of grain, so it seemed incredibly wasteful to toss so much grain. The good news is that you can use some of that spent grain to make dog treats that, in my experience, dogs LOVE.
The bad news is that, unless you set up a giant assembly line to make dog treats for every dog you’ve ever met, you’re probably not going to come close to using all your spent grain. However, I’ve made double and even quadruple batches over the course of a couple days and froze several dozen of them to give as Christmas presents or to ingratiate myself with someone who has a cool-looking dog that I want to meet. In Chicago, I also found an animal shelter not too far away from my house that was thrilled to accept some of my dog treats.
The recipe itself is super simple with only four basic ingredients: spent grain, flour, eggs, and peanut butter. One thing I love about the recipe is that I know exactly what goes into the treats I give my dogs and there’s not anything mysterious in them that can also be used in yoga mats or anything I can’t pronounce. I control what kinds of ingredients I use and don’t have to decipher a list of ingredients. With the exception of the spent grain, I use all organic ingredients to make my dog treats.
The treats have to bake at a low temperature for a couple of hours, which means that your oven will be tied up for part of the day but it also means that your house will smell like peanut butter for the entire day. Once they’re finished baking, put them in an airtight bag and they will stay good in your refrigerator for about a week or in your freezer for about 3 months. I’ve given my dogs treats that were over those time limits and they still loved them, but I wouldn’t advise going much past the week/3 months time frame just so you don’t make your dog sick. Also, it goes without saying that you should probably double check with your vet prior to giving your dog the treats so they can weigh in on whether the treats will be okay for your dog. Neither one of my dogs has any health issues that are affected by the treats, but I do have friends whose dogs are grain-free and can’t have the treats.
I usually get the spent grain I need as soon as we’re done sparging and the grain has cooled down enough for me to scoop some out. I put more than I need in a Rubbermaid container and toss it in the refrigerator to cool it down. I also find the grain is not quite as sticky once it cools down. Take note: this is not a clean baking project. I usually mix everything together with my hands once I’ve folded the eggs in enough with a rubber spatula that it doesn’t feel like I’m rooting around in snot. I also make sure to take my ring off before I get started so I’m not trying to clean peanut butter and everything else out of it. While I let the grain cool down in the refrigerator, I don’t wait too long before I use it. If you’ve homebrewed before, you know how quickly the spent grain can start to go bad. I think you’d be fine if you had to wait until the next day to use the grain, but I wouldn’t wait much past that.
Here is the basic recipe*:
4 cups spent grain
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup peanut butter
- Preheat your oven to 350°
- Mix all the ingredients together to form a think dough and add flour as needed until you can roll the dough into a ball
- Roll dough out onto a floured surface. You can use a knife to cut the dough into shapes, roll it into small bite-sized balls or use cookie cutters (I got a dog-themed set of cookie cutters on Amazon). Keep in mind the sizes of the dog who will be receiving the treats. The first couple times I made them, I used a giant bone-shaped cookie cutter and made treats that were way too large for any of my dogs.
- Put treats in a single layer on cookie sheets (I usually don’t bother greasing them).
- Bake for 30 minutes at 350° (F), then reduce the temperature to 225° (F) and bake for 2 hours.
- Let cool and serve!
*After checking with your vet, you may try adding other ingredients, like diced apples, canned pumpkin, or yogurt.