The Duluth beer-beef cycle

When you make beer, one of the byproducts is the leftover grain you have used in the brewing process. When you run Fitger’s Brewhouse in Duluth, that comes to 3,000 pounds a week of “spent grain.”

The Brewhouse, housed in the old Fitger’s brewery on Superior Street and overlooking Lake Superior, is owned by Tim Nelson and Rod Raymond, and somewhere in the past couple years, it dawned on them that you could feed about 85 head of cattle on that.

And about a year ago, Nelson and Raymond opened Tycoon’s, a little bit more upscale sort of brewhouse down the street from Fitger’s where you can get, among other things, a steak.

You can see where this is going.

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Farm worker Rob Strom with two head of the Fitger’s Brewhouse Scottish Highland cattle. Rob Strom photo.

Nelson and Raymond have just bought six Scottish Highland cattle and are fattening them up on a worker’s farm near Twig, about 20 miles northwest of Duluth, feeding them the used grain from their brewhouse.

Come spring, they hope, you’ll be able to drink their locally made beer and eat a steak from their locally made and beer-grain-fed steer.

It’s the latest wrinkle in the Duluth local foods movement, tying together the brewpub craze and the locally sourced food movement in a circle that can’t get much tighter.

In a phone call from a vacation in Costa Rica Wednesday, Nelson said, they’ve been giving the spent grain away to farmers and hearing good things about how much cattle like it and how nutritious it is.

“It took the cattle a little while to get used to it,” Nelson said, but now they like it.

To keep Nelson’s and Raymond’s restaurants in beef takes about a cow a week, he said. They don’t plan to fill their whole supply on their own, but Nelson said they will expand from six to 10 cattle soon and eventually raise them on a farm they bought in October near Silver Bay.

Part of the attraction for the two is the Scottish Highland breed itself, long-haired, long-horned and “cool looking,” Nelson said. But as a restaurateur, he knows he needs one more link in the local chain — the butcher at Old World Meats up the hill from the lake.

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