Beer makes everything better doesn’t it? Well, Robert “Rusty” and Mary Bryant seem to think it might just make brownies even better, too. Asheville Brew Bites is a quirky and health-conscious venture that promises a tasty finish to a very unique endeavor. Bryant, a retired biochemist, Ph.D., and flavor chemist who moved to Asheville from New Jersey with his wife Mary developed the idea at the Blue Ridge Food Ventures, a local business incubator and shared-kitchen for start up companies.
The concept is quite simple and seemingly brilliant. During the brewing process, yeast is a vital ingredient. But once the yeast has been used or is “spent,” what do you do with it? The Bryants saw an opportunity and jumped on it, mixing the hand-crafted encore yeast from Highland Brewery, enriched with hops, and blended with chocolate to make nonalcoholic treats that are not only looking to please the palate, but also to help sustain the breweries that are providing him with a vital ingredient.
The first product Bryant developed was not the brownie, but a paste similar to Marmite, a bitter spread popular in Great Britain. But after seeing his grandchildren’s distaste for the product, Rusty went back to the drawing board. He developed Brew Butter, a paste with the consistency of peanut butter that his wife later turned into the base of a brownie. Dr. Bryant and his team presented the concept back in April at the Science in the Mountains Symposium in Boone, discussing the health benefits of the yeast.
A respected source of protein and vitamins, brewers yeast has been used for centuries as a natural medicinal cure-all for everything from the common cold and influenza to PMS and acne. It also serves as an assistant in helping to balance blood glucose levels in diabetics. Benefits that Mr. Bryant and his cohort Dr. Seth Cohen claim are significantly increased due to higher levels of hop acids found in local micro breweries yeasts. And if Brew Bites and their research arm, Asheville Flavor Innovations, have, as they claim, tamed the characteristically bitter flavors of the spent yeasts, they may have quite a product on their hands.
The plus sides of owning a brewery are obvious, but one drawback is the constant generation of waste. Swedish company Alfa Laval has been working for years to solve the waste issues of breweries in Europe in less delicious ways. They claim on their website that “the various losses at different stages of production can be between 2.1 and 6.4 percent of total production, representing a considerable amount in terms of beer and money.” Those losses are always proportional to the size of the brewery, and with growing breweries like Highland, whose distribution spreads them as far south as Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and as far north as Washington, D.C., a little help with disposing of that waste in an efficient and beneficial way is surely appreciated. And its even more appreciated when done in a manner that requires the use of chocolate.
You can taste the wares of Asheville Brew Bites tomorrow, Sept. 21, at the North Asheville Tailgate Market from 8 a.m. until noon.