Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Brian Grossman (son of Sierra Nevada Founder Ken Grossman) and I were discussing our love for pigs and all things pork two years ago, when I asked him if it would be possible to raise two pigs on Sierra Nevada spent grain, hops and yeast. I had wanted to raise animals on brewery by-products for a long time, and now I thought it could actually be a possibility. Brian’s eyes lit up when I asked the question, and together we knew we had to make our pig project happen.
At the time when we started our beer and swine project I was working on a beer and food pairing menu for the Brewer’s Dinner at the annual Northern California Homebrew Festival at Lake Francis in Dobbins, California. Three months before the date of the dinner, our pigs were fed Sierra Nevada brewery by-products by the animal science students in the agriculture department at California State University at Chico. The two pigs were then slaughtered a week before they were to be served at my homebrew festival dinner.
After slaughter, we injected the first pig carcass with freshly brewed and chilled first runnings from a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale brew day using a special stainless steel needle. We used a gallon (3.7 L) of this wort and targeted all the major and minor muscle groups. The second pig had a similar treatment; however, the injection was infused with a collaboration brew Sierra Nevada made with Dogfish Head Craft Brewery called Life and Limb Ale. This brew was made with maple syrup from Dogfish Founder Sam Calagione’s family farm in New England.
After the wort was injected, Brian pulled out special pig pans that Sierra Nevada uses for large events and we lined two of them with Cascade hops by the handful (see photos at left). We placed each pig carcass belly up in each of the pans and filled the cavities with more hops. The two carcasses were then placed in a walk-in refrigerator to “hop age,” letting the hop flavor and aroma penetrate the flesh, and also to let the wort and beer marinate the meat.
After six days in the coolers with the hops, I took the hopped and marinated pig carcasses to the dinner location, along with a “make any BBQ head jealous, over the top, totally custom, spit made from a leaking grundy tank lid.” The first whole pig was then tied with stainless steel wire to a stainless steel post and roasted over mesquite and oak wood overnight, basted in a Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale adobo mop. The second whole pig was wrapped in a hop burlap sack, rehydrated in water and buried into a pit that was filled with river rock and a half-ton of wood, burned down to coals and covered to slow cook for 14 hours.
The pork delicacies were served as two different courses with a dinner theme of hops and IPA. Both pigs were amazing, complex and unique to the preparation. Working with Brian on this project was not only a blast, but is an example of “Eat Beer” at its finest and fulfilled a long beer cuisine dream of mine!
Sean Z. Paxton, The Homebrew Chef, wrote the feature story on page 48 of this issue of Brew Your Own about the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California. Sean lives and homebrews in Sonoma, California and he organizes several beer and food events and menus each year. Visit Sean’s website at www.homebrewchef.com where you can track his latest events and read sample menus. You can also listen to Sean on The Brewing Network’s show “The Home Brewed Chef” at http://thebrewingnetwork.com/shows/The-Home-Brewed-Chef