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Lucy Saunders
4230 N. Oakland #178
Shorewood WI
53211 USA
@ site name

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Malty mushrooms

Great Lakes Brewing Co. is putting Cleveland on the map for making more than award-winning beer.

Owners Patrick and Dan Conway are organizing the brewery for organic operations-including growing mushrooms from malt. Soggy spent grains, the barley malt leftover from brewing, are typically thrown away.

"It's one of the most wasteful practices in brewing," says Conway. Across the country, brewers struggle to find ways to recycle spent grains, most often giving it away for livestock feed. Now, the Great Lakes Brewing Co. grows malty mushrooms from spent grain.

At the National Association of Brewers Conference in April 2002, the brewery showcased its 'shrooms. A brewer's assistant packs plastic bags with a blend of spent grains and sawdust, cuts small slits into the bags and inoculates the grain with spores, and a few weeks later, voila! Derek Wilson, co-chef of the brewery's pub, harvests a rainbow of oyster mushrooms, elm mushrooms, shiitakes, and other exotic fungi. (see photo)Mushrooms sprout from malt at the Great Lakes Brewing Co., Cleveland OH

What started as an experiment in sustainable brewery operations literally mushroomed, as local organic farmers Tom and Wendy Wiandt of Killbuck Valley Farms now take home a truckload of spent grain each week to feed their fungi.

"In nature, mushrooms seldom can use something as nutritionally rich as grain as a food source due to intense competition from bacteria and molds," says Wiandt. "In our facility, we sterilize the spent grain mix in a massive pressure cooker. After it cools, we seed it with the mushrooms and keep it under sterile conditions until the mushrooms fruit."

Chef Wilson orders three to ten pounds every week to use in the brewpub's kitchen. "Right now, we're using the malty mushrooms in an individual pizza with pesto, Feta and Mozzarella cheeses," says Wilson, pictured at right at the welcoming reception sponsored by Briess Malt of Chilton. Co-chef Derek Wilson of the Great Lakes Brewing Co. Pub, at the Craft Brewers Conference in Cleveland

"The blend of mushrooms changes from week to week, but mostly it's a mixture of all the different colored oyster mushrooms. The flavor is fantastic, but I think the Shiitake, in particular, have a much meatier, firmer texture."

Wiandt is expanding production with spent grains. "At this stage, we are beginning our first production runs of Shiitakes. We have already been fruiting Lion's Mane mushrooms on this mix and we are working on Maitake and Hon Shimenji."

Killbuck Valley Farms sells their organic mushrooms back to Great Lakes under "favorable business terms" in exchange for the spent grain. In turn, grain growing helps makes mushroom farming an indoor venture.

"The mushrooms we produce are indistinguishable from those grown on logs except that we don't have to deal with bug bites, or either rain-soaked or wind-dried mushrooms," explains Wiandt. "This highly productive method allows us to keep the whole operation indoors, under controlled conditions."

Sample a barley salad for a taste of malty mushrooms with Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter Scallion dressing.

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