Bakery employs adults with special needs to craft dog treats made from byproducts from beer

The Brew Bakers are adults with special needs using beer by-products to make dog biscuits -- a business all their own that's booming on the west side of the state and now it's making its way to Detroit.

Tanis Hooker stopped by the FOX 2 studio to tell us about Beer City Dog Biscuits, a business, a nonprofit, by and for people with special needs. 

"Peanut butter, rice flour, eggs and the leftover spent grains," he said.

That's right - spent grains from Founders Brewing. It was the bright idea of Tanis's mom Leslie, and her friend, Suzanne, whose son Gavin has autism. Both Gavin and Tanis, who is visually impaired, were about to age out of the public school system at the age of 26. They live in the Grand Rapids area and they needed something to do.

"We wanted something that they could do during the day - that was meaningful  purposeful - and we wanted a business that they could be part of from the beginning to the end," Leslie said.

They started Googling dog biscuit recipes, found some with spent grains, which is the waste from the brewing process after making beer.

"We thought - well we live in beer city. Let's start at the top -  let's call Founders," said Suzanne Wilcox.

Founders Brewing agreed and now, in just one year, they've gone from Tanis and Gavin baking biscuits to 40 to 50 people with special needs baking biscuits every week.

"It's quite the project," Tanis said.

Sold online and at farmers markets and in stores like Pet Supplies Plus, the dog biscuits are going to also be sold here in southeast Michigan at Beyond Juice and Premiere Pet Supplies. And 100 percent of the proceeds go right back into the non-profit to continue empowering those with disabilities.

"We're really excited to be on this side of the state," Leslie said. "Everyone we talked loves the mission and again, their dogs love the dog treats."

Just ask Clover and Chief, Tanis and Gavin's dogs -- they're the chief taste testers. Don't worry, the dogs aren't getting drunk. There's no alcohol, no hops, just the spent grains and a few other ingredients.

"Rice, flour, eggs, peanut butter - all natural. The dogs love it," Leslie said.

But the best part is that this is so healthy for the Brew Bakers, giving adults with special needs the opportunity to work and grow and contribute. It's pretty clear they all take such great pride in what they do.

"It's been great a great experience, great to work with so many great people. I have a lot of fun filling the molds and selling the products," Tanis said.

"We have a darn good time. The hugs that we get everyday, the joy that is happening in that kitchen and they own it. They own that business and they are so proud of it," Suzanne said.

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