Asheville – Jen Nathanson, founder of whosagooddog?, a small-batch dog treat company, wants to make use of what would have otherwise gone to waste from craft beer breweries to give dogs something tasty to munch on.
She told The Tribune that whosagooddog? makes treats using spent grains that breweries aren’t using anymore. Spent grains refer to what’s left after the brewing process is done; they have no alcohol or hops in them and are usually sold to farms to feed livestock.
“A lot of it goes to waste,” Nathanson said, and she said that was the genesis of her idea for whosagooddog?. “I thought there was something I could do.”She’s always had a love for baking, she told the Tribune, but as her kids left the house, she wasn’t doing much of it recently. So making the treats started out as just a fun way to spend the time.
“I get the grains from different breweries,” she said. “I use all organic ingredients, except for the spent grains.”
Nathanson said whosagooddog?? tries to keep things healthy. Except for using honey, she said the treats are vegan. And because they’re dehydrated, meaning they’re made without preservatives, she said the shelf life of the treats is “basically forever.” She said she bakes the treats to be smoother and not as rigid as other dog treats, which she thinks is more palatable for dogs.
Nathanson has only been running whosagooddog? for about a month, and said she wasn’t expecting the specially-made dog treats to really get much traction. But word caught on, and now she’s fully in business.
“It’s super exciting,” she said. “I figured I’d just be making treats for a few days. But now I have friends who are out for a beer, and they see my treats and text me about that.”
Amusingly, she said the treats have also been consumed by others, who have reported back with positive reviews.
“Several of my friends have eaten the treats themselves,” Nathanson said. “They say they’re very good. My husband walked in while I was baking one and said, “This smells awesome; can I have one?’”
She said she’s mostly sticking to smaller, local breweries in the area because it’s such a small operation right now.
The treats started out available at Highland Brewing, where she works, but in the last few weeks she’s had them picked up by New Belgium Brewing, Hi Wire Brewing, and Archetype Brewing, after a local news report shed light on what she was doing. And she said she expects other breweries to start carrying them soon.Nathanson said the appeal of making the whosagooddog? treats is that she’s able to reuse things that would’ve otherwise gone to waste.
“I’m excited about using ingredients that could’ve been waste,” she said. “It’s upcycling something that would’ve been thrown away.”
Her plan for now is to keep expanding the business and get the dog treats into more breweries. Depending on how much business she ends up getting, she said she may have to rent a space to cook more.
“I’m at max capacity in my house,” she said. “I may have to expand my kitchen and buy new equipment, or get another space.”
One of the current projects she’s doing involves the popular Highland Brewing Company Cold Mountain Spiced Winter Ale, which she incorporated into a dog treat with cranberry and hazelnut flavoring. And there’s another new batch she’s made that has peanut butter flavoring.
She said there was a place for her business in the Asheville area specifically, due to both its culture of dog-lovers and beer-lovers.
“I think it’s a niche that had not been explored, with breweries being so big here, and so many of them being pet-friendly,” she said. “People always ask at the bar about dog treats. I wanted to offer some made locally. I really enjoy doing it.”