In Colorado, our dogs follow us almost everywhere — on hiking trails, to the grocery store, to hotels during vacation and anywhere else they’re allowed. Now, there’s a reason for our pups to accompany us for a pint, as well.
In the tasting room of the Crazy Mountain Brewing Co. in Vail, dog treats are on hand to provide a tasting experience for any four-legged companions who happen to come along. These are more than just Milk Bones, however. They’re Brewski Bones, made from the spent grain of the brewing company itself. So while you’re drinking the product of hops, yeast and other ingredients, your pooch can be chowing down on a tasty snack made from the remnants of that process.
Brewski Bones were thought up by friends Kyle Velvis and Mark McDonnell. The first Brewski Bones came out of Velvis experimenting with treats for his Bernese mountain dog, Jinx.
“I kind of started making the treats off-handedly for him as a cheaper, low-cost alternative for trail food,” Velvis said.
He had heard of spent brewer’s grain going to feed cattle, did some research and started tinkering with a recipe. He and McDonnell worked for about six months to get it just right before marketing it to the public.
Velvis and McDonnell use the grain exclusively from Crazy Mountain’s Mountain Livin’ pale ale and Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, its extra special bitter beer. They avoid using beer styles that incorporate wheat or oats to ensure the healthy aspect of the treats.
The process starts with gathering the grain.
“It’s really important to coordinate with the brewers to get the grain as fresh as possible,” Velvis said. They usually try to get it within six hours of the brew finishing and have the treats cooked within 48 hours.
Brewski Bones are meant to be a treat for the dogs, not used as the main diet, Velvis said. And so far, the results have been positive.
Although they only started their business in July 2012, Brewski Bones can already be found in 27 locations throughout Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. In addition to the brewery, several pet supply stores and hotels in Vail carry the treats, as does The Barnyard pet supply store in Frisco. Velvis said he and McDonnell are excited to watch their business expand so quickly and are hoping the rapid growth will continue.
Brewski Bones is not the first small business venture for Velvis. About six years ago he started a Denver company building agricultural greenhouses before moving to Vail. Now, he’s committed to seeing where Brewski Bones might take him.
“I’ve always been inspired to be my own boss. Honestly, I never saw myself doing dog treats,” he said with a laugh. But so far, so good. “I’ve been around animals my whole life and I’ve got a passion for them, and this business falls into that category.”
While the treats are meant for dogs, there’s nothing in them that a human can’t eat, and Velvis admitted to trying some himself. This past summer, a vendor at a market deep fried a Brewski Bone and drizzled it in honey, which he said was tasty.
Still, “I’d recommend if you try one to have a beverage in hand, they’re a little dry,” he said, joking.