A loaf of bread made with spent grains from a brewery. Courtesy Caitlin Jewell.
For Caitlin Jewell, a former brewery owner who now teaches brewery-based baking classes, it feels like many people are excited about getting out and making friends in the post-pandemic era – and are using her classes as a stepping stone to connect with others.
"It's really been very joyous the last couple of months," she says.
The classes are held at small, independent breweries around the Peninsula, and Jewell sees herself as an evangelist for these breweries, helping to bring new customers through their doors and offer something new to visitors.
Everyone's got a trivia night or a karaoke night, she figured, but where else can you learn to bake bread or dog treats using spent grain from a brewery's own beer-making process?
"The competition out there for customers is pretty fierce," she says.
Jewell knows this firsthand: Grainbakers is a project she took on about five years ago at the Boston-area brewery she and her husband owned, Somerville Brewing Co., when she was looking for ways to draw people in on otherwise slow nights.
But the program wasn't enough to save her brewery when the pandemic hit, and it shuttered in August 2020. She and her husband moved to the East Bay around then and over the past year or so, Jewell has brought her spent grain bread and dog biscuit baking classes as a side hustle to breweries throughout the region, from Concord to Seaside. She is currently offering classes with Devil's Canyon Brewing Company in San Carlos and S27 Alehouse and Brewery in San Jose.
Each class usually starts with a tour of the brewery, a discussion about how beer is made and a session in which attendees work on preparing either bread or dog treats using the spent grains to take home and bake, Jewell explains.
Spent grain is a brewing byproduct. In the brewing process, the grain is steeped in very hot water for a period of time, and when the brewery is done with it, it's essentially waste, typically sent out to local farmers to feed their cattle or chickens. It's high in protein and fiber, and breweries produce a huge amount of it, she says.
She says her classes are a great option for ladies nights (their popularity with the Facebook group Bay Area Adventure Gals is a big reason classes have been selling out) or a date night, but she's also seeing an increasing number of people showing up solo, hoping the event will help them meet new people.
"This is a great class for someone to try to be brave," she says. "It's such a good time."
The next class is scheduled for Friday, April 14, at Devil's Canyon Brewing Company. More information and tickets can be found here.
Grainbakers, various locations, Instagram: @grainbakers.