WINCHESTER – What do a brewer, a baker and coffee roaster have in common?

It may sound like the opening line of a barroom joke, but the answer is as simple as sliced bread. Or more specifically, brewers grain bread.

The unique co-operation project involves Cheryl Beasley from Simply Baked, Pierre Doucette from Humble Beginnings Brewing and Reg Coffey from Coffey’s Coffee. The relationship all came about because of a waste, known as spent grain, from Humble Beginnings brewing process.

Beasley is a self-processed research addict and was scouring the Internet for a new bread recipe. “I’ve been reading about [spent grain] because we do a lot of research. I do a lot of my own bread recipes and I make them up on the fly,” said Beasley. “They were saying [spent grain] would raise the protein in the bread by as much as 80 per cent. They do it a lot in Europe. It can also raise the fibre in the bread by 70 per cent.”

With such a remarkable difference in the nutritional value of something that most people these days consider unhealthy, Beasley’s curiosity piqued.

She contacted Coffey and he connected her to Doucette who had just started up his brewing operation next door to Coffey’s Coffee.

After being contacted by Beasley, giving the spent grain, now nothing more than waste for the brewery, another lease on life was a no-brainer for Doucette.

“It’s an oatmeal consistency. You steep the grains and pull out the sugars and starches,” explained Doucette. “At the end of it you’re left with all those grains that went into the mash ton and all the sugars and starches have been pulled out of them. They’re of no use in the brewing process anymore. They’re basically brewers garbage that you’d otherwise have to pay someone to take away, but it still has a life for someone else.”

A little bit of the spent grain goes a very long way in the new brewers grain bread recipe explained Beasley.

“Two cups of spent grain in a batch of bread, which makes about 10 loaves. It’s not the only grain in there, but it does raise the nutritional value,” she said.

The finished product is a moist, slightly sweet bread with a nice thick consistency. For people looking to try a healthier alternative to regular white bread and even whole wheat bread, this particular batch will knock all others out of the water in taste and nutrition.

Beasley is a champion of local produce and farmers, and tries to use them as often as possible in her recipes. The demise of Homestead Organics has led to a shortfall of whole grain products so this brewers grain was a good find for her.

“Whole wheat flour in the store is actually white flour with bran added to it. It looks very different and the texture is very different,” she said. “It’s unfortunate [Homestead Organics] had a great product. But if you only used that you would end up with a brick because it’s everything. It’s all the grain. It’s a real whole wheat. It makes a difference in the bread.”

Coffey’s role in the relationship has also benefited Doucette as Humble Beginnings Brewing had created a coffee stout. It was Coffey’s product, but more importantly, his knowledge that paved the way for that creation.

Coffey is a food scientist by trade and in 2005 as the chair of the food safety committee for the Baking Association of Canada, he represented the entire baking industry before the Federal Standing Committee on Health on Parliament Hill concerning the trans fatty acid consultation.

His coffee business is an extension of his passion and his impressive knowledge of all things food.

Coffey offers this simple explanation for the relationship between beer and bread.

“Bread is basically dried beer. That’s why breweries and bread makers have had a marriage for years,” he said.

With this amount of expertise, knowledge and passion all pulling in the same direction, customers will benefit as the creators curiosity leads them down new and interesting paths.

“Flour is actually just a description of the physical nature of something. So flour is dried and milled anything,” said Coffey.

With that in mind, grape flour, coffee cherry flour and other ingredients have been circling the mixing bowl in the mind of Beasley lately.

“I’m eventually going to order it and experiment. Trust me,” she said. “I’ve used beer in bread. I’ve used root beer in bread. I’ve even used sauerkraut in bread.”

As far as different flavoured beers resulting in different bread, the only limitation is the baker’s or brewer’s imagination.

“A heavily caramelized or roasted barley even after it’s malted will leave a different flavour. If we give her spent grain from a stout versus a spent grain from a Kolsh it’s going to be darker in general and it’s going to provide more of a roasted chocolate flavour. Whereas a Kolsh will produce more of that clean flavour that comes across in a beer. It really depends on what we are brewing,” said Doucette.

The three businesses seem to be enjoying the fruits, and wastes of each others’ labour and the relationship simply works for all involved. Coffey brings his coffee and the spent grain to Simply Baked, who in turn sends back a loaf of brewers grain bread to Humble Beginnings Brewing. It’s a symbiotic relationship forged around food that will only benefit the customer and their taste buds.

When asked if it’s beer that unites us all, Doucette instead said, “I’d say coffee or bread too. [Coffey] sells coffee to Simply Baked and he sells coffee to us. For us there is a good cycle of life. The coffee comes from this village. We’re very much a part of this village and it helps us tell the story of this village and our Humble Beginnings.”

For these three businesses they’ve discovered a secret long forgotten. Co-operation and creativity create a community that works together and eats well together.