by Petrina DiOrio
Ed. Note: Petrina DiOrio, 39, who grew up in Maple Shade, NJ, and her wife of 11 years, Kim, are animal lovers who have lived in Telford for 10 years, which is half in Montgomery County and half in Bucks County. For about one-and-a-half years they have been making a product called Brewscuits, a unique kind of dog biscuit made in part from spent beer grains. They are available in 33 stores, including several not far from Chestnut Hill. (More about that later.) Here is their unique story:
Brewscuits beer grain dog bones began in May of 2013 in Telford when our dog Tiki stole some spent beer grains off of our picnic table that were meant to go to the compost bin. My partner and I are home brewers, and with the leftover grains we created Brewscuits.
One weekend we brewed a batch of beer, and when we were finished I took the spent grains outside and put them on the picnic table to go to the compost bin. I forgot about the grains and let our dogs outside to go to the bathroom, and Tiki stole the grains off the table, pulled them onto the patio and shared them with all the other dogs. This led to us doing research about spent beer grains — which are barley, oats and rye — and we decided to make dog bones out of them.
Brewscuits contain only four ingredients: spent beer grain, egg, flour and either peanut butter, pumpkin or sweet potato. Brewscuits contain no sugar, salt, additives or preservatives. The baking process totally dries out the Brewscuits, which removes all the moisture and means we do not have to add any preservatives.
Since we foster, rescue and take care of military family dogs, it gets a little crazy in our household. Creating Brewscuits allowed us to provide our dogs with something nutritionally sound and also up-cycle a product that would normally be discarded. All aspects of the process are completed by us. From the baking to the labeling to the bagging and heat sealing, everything is completed in home by us and our team. Nothing is farmed out to any other business.
All of the ingredients in Brewscuits are local to us. We don’t make enough beer to keep up with demand at this point, so we are working in conjunction with Free Will Brewing in Perkasie. Once a week we go to the brewery and pick up four to five 60-pound buckets of spent grain. We bring the grain home and process it into dough to make the Brewscuits. We use local farm fresh eggs, local peanut butter and locally grown pumpkin and sweet potato.
When we first started making Brewscuits, it was in our oven in the house on regular-sized cookie sheets. We could produce two to three bags of Brewscuits at one time. We quickly realized that we could not keep up with demand working at this pace. We searched the Internet for an industrial-sized convection oven, found one and installed it in our garage. With the purchase of the oven, we increased our output to 11-15 bags at one time. We were initially using cellophane bags and homemade printed labels for our Brewscuits, but as we grew we realized we needed to change the packaging to a more professional appearance.
Our first venture selling Brewscuits was at the Telford Farmers Market. We wanted to make sure that it was a viable product that people were even interested in before we dove in head-first. Our first year at the farmers market was a huge success, and we realized we were onto something good. We were able to get into a few stores locally — a local vet clinic, a health food store and a few pet shops.
Demand kept growing so we invested in a second convection oven and had that installed in our garage as well. We invested in a large stainless steel double-door refrigerator to keep our spent grains and processed dough fresh. Next we invested in some large stainless steel workstations and a few stainless steel baking cooling racks, and — all of a sudden — we have a full-fledged bakery in our garage.
The initial Brewscuits were single-cut bones from small cookie cutters. We realized this was not going to work for us as we grew and expanded, so we had custom-designed cookie cutters made by Jacob Schmidt and Son Inc., in Harleysville. Now we are able to process 11 full-sheet cookie trays in approximately 3 ½ hours. This yields us 45 bags of Brewscuits at one time.
The ovens are running four days a week, approximately 8 hours per day, which for now is keeping us on top of our demand. It’s hard to believe that only one year later we’ve grown into the business that we are today, and we are currently available in more than 30 stores locally.
We also ship all over the country and currently have a food distributor, Danabella Foods, LLC, in Perkasie, introducing us into new stores weekly. And to think this all happened by accident because our dog Tiki pulled a bag of spent grain off of the picnic table! Needless to say, Tiki is rewarded daily with Brewscuits for his efforts in creating this wonderful product.
The stores closest to Chestnut Hill that carry Brewscuits are: The Foodery in Roxborough, Keystone Homebrew Supplies in Montgomeryville and Cool Dog Gear in the Montgomeryville Mall. Brewscuits cost $5.99 (small) and $7.99 (large). We also have a plan in the works to create a new horse treat product.
For more information, visit us at brewscuit.com, follow us on Facebook or contact us directly at 215-723-0378.