S.J. Collins Enterprises

Tradition Brewing, Whole Foods in Newport News partner for spent grain bread

The grains that go into the beers at Tradition Brewing Company may not only quench your thirst, but satisfy your hunger as well.

The brewing company, which opened in Newport News to the public last month, has partnered with Whole Foods to turn the spent grains, one of the byproducts from the brewing process after the Irish red ales and American pale ales and other beers are made, into bread.

There, Amanda Urick, Whole Foods' bakery team leader, takes those grains and bakes them into loaves that sell like hot cakes at the Newport News store.

After Urick, a beer enthusiast, found out Tradition was going to open close by her store — just two miles up the road — she approached the brewery's owners with the idea of collaborating.

"We got in contact, and we started … making things happen," said Urick, who has been baking with Whole Foods since she joined the company in 2007.

Two five-gallon buckets of spent grain from Tradition yields 300 pounds of dough. She describes the response to the bread as "phenomenal," selling out regularly.

"People love the connection to the local," she said. "This is a hyperlocal bread. We want to support local vendors."

The Newport News store is one of two in the company's Mid-Atlantic region that uses spent grain from beer to make bread. The other is in Ohio.

The spent grains get added to a basic dough of flour, water and yeast, which goes through a mixer. Later, the dough is kneaded, with Urick folding the dough in on itself to get out some of the air in the mixture.

The dough gets shaped into a round form and then sits for 24 hours, making it softer and expanding it to about double the size.

Before baking, the dough is spritzed with water, and Urick sprinkles flour to fill in a stencil of the "T" in Tradition's logo. Then she makes cuts in the bread that help relieve pressure in the dough during baking and also add some decorative flair to the finished product, a German-style sourdough.

"It's got a nice flavor to it," she said. "It's very hearty, and the crumb inside is very dense."

For their part, the team at Tradition Brewing is excited about working with the store as well.

In the past, brewmaster Dan Powell, who made beer for years before helping found the brewery, experimented with making dog biscuits and other items here and there, but Whole Foods is using Tradition's grains on a scale he would not have imagined.

"It's really kind of humbling walking into Whole Foods and seeing bread from our grains and seeing our logo," Powell said. "It's just really neat to team up with someone who can do this."

Things have been moving fast for the owners of Tradition, but things are off to a great start, said Andy Beale, who oversees distribution.

"(The bread was) something we didn't consider," Beale said. "It was cool to see."