My dog's first taste of beer came at an early age. Ever the curious puppy, she knocked over a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon at a kickball game and took a few cautious licks of the golden stuff that beaded up on some blades of grass. We snatched her away from the growing puddle, but those few drops of Wisconsin goodness stayed with her. To this day, whenever someone pops a can of PBR, her puppy sense begins to tingle and she wanders over for a sniff.I am aware that beer is not something we should be giving to our pup. The hops that make our favorite brews so aromatic and flavorful are poisonous to our canine buddies. But at the end of a long day, I've often thought that it would be nice if there was a way I could share a brew with my favorite furry gal pal.Local entrepreneurs Mark McDonnell and Kyle Velvis had the same thought. The two share a love for craft beer, and having spent a lot of time at breweries, they noticed two things: Beer and dog lovers go hand in hand, and there's a lot of spent grain from the brewing process that goes to waste. "Spent grain is 90 percent of the waste from breweries," McDonnell said. "Some breweries just trash it."So they went to work developing a product that would transform that brewing byproduct into a snackable doggy delicacy, and after about a year of trial and error dialing in the recipe, BrewSki Bones was born."We're not a food; it's a treat," McDonnell said. "It's like an energy bar for dogs. The filler makes them feel full so they aren't scrounging on the trail."The process starts with a load of spent grain from Crazy Mountain Brewing Co. in Edwards. Spent grain is what remains in the mash tun after the liquid wort has been removed and mostly consists of husks and the reproductive seed parts of the barley and other grains used to brew the beer. McDonnell and Velvis combine this spent grain with all-natural peanut butter, organic flour and Colorado eggs to make their flagship product, Beaver Balls. The dough for the balls is scooped onto cookie sheets and baked in a commercial oven for four hours until dry before being packed into half-pound and one-pound bakery bags. Because the treats are a fresh product made with no preservatives, they have a recommended shelf life of about two months, McDonnell said.McDonnell and Velvis only make use of spent grain from certain styles of beer - namely, Crazy Mountain's pale ale and ESB - in order to keep the wheat and gluten content low in BrewSki Bones. "There is no contact with hops," Velvis said. "We take it as fresh as we can before it gets close to any hop pellets or flowers."Velvis said he is amazed at how many people approach their tent at farmers markets and other events and are very selective about what they put into their dogs' stomachs. Potential customers are pleasantly surprised by the Beaver Balls. The treats are a good source of carbohydrates and indigestible proteins and also contain calcium and phosphorous, both important elements in a dog's diet, Velvis said."We put the nutrition facts right on the back of the package," Velvis said.Making a nutritious dog treat is one thing, but the main goal of Velvis and McDonnell's venture is to enable craft-beer lovers to share a bit of their passion with their four-legged friends. McDonnell said the fledgling company has attracted interest from a couple of other breweries that want to make treats out of their own spent grain. The idea, he said, is for each brewery to have its own flavor of BrewSki Bone that can be marketed as a companion to its beer. "We're riding that wave," Velvis said, referring to the booming craft-beer industry in Colorado. "We saw an opportunity and identified a market."McDonnell and Velvis have a lot of avenues they want to explore down the road, including seasonal treat flavors that make use of locally grown produce, such as pumpkins in the fall, and smaller treat sizes for training or toy breeds. But for now, you can grab a package of Beaver Balls from the Crazy Mountain tasting room, kick back and savor a "brew" with your best friend.
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