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Depending on which beer they're brewing, Goose Island's brewpub can produce up to a couple tons of spent grain every week. This is the barley (or sometimes wheat) that's been cooked to produce the sugar-loaded wort that goes on to be fermented into the miracle of beer. What's leftover "is like a rough-cut oatmeal," says brewpub manager Tim Lane. "It still has husks attached to it, so you can't really eat it, but it smells great."
Lane says every now and then the Botanic Garden would take the spent grain for composting, but usually the brewpub had no choice but to throw it out. Then, back in January, ex-Mas jefe John Manion took over in the kitchen and started buying whole animals from some of the rock stars of local animal husbandry whose meat ends up banner listed on menus all over the city. In particular, Manion's been taking delivery of whole pigs from Swan Creek farmer George Rasmussen, which he turns into pork sliders and Cuban sandwiches on the new menu, rolled out last week. Rasmussen in turn hauls the grain back to Michigan and feeds it to his pigs.
Lane says a couple grain pickups per week are rotated between Swan Creek and Slagel Farms, so wherever you see those names on a menu there's a good chance the animal was feasting on Goose Island grain.
The anthropomorphic grilled ham, andouille, and Muenster sandwich pictured was made with Nueske ham, but Lane says eventually it too will be Swan Creek pork nestled on the pretzel bun.