Beer paws: Keeping Your Dogs Sustainable, Hoppy And Healthy!

 Crystal Wiebe has created a sustainable market all her own with some enjoyable treats for the most loyal of drinking buddies, our dogs. Using the spent grains from local craft breweries to create simple and healthy dog treats, Beer Paws takes an innovative new approach to sustainable cooking. Between assisting with the fostering and rescuing of dogs as well as hosting and attending events throughout the Midwest, Crystal creates these treats in her Kansas City kitchen. Using this unique commodity to create her product allows some awesome cross-branding opportunities that have led to a quickly growing demand.
In order to keep up with this demand and pursue future craft and dog friendly markets, Crystal has started a Indiegogo campaign aimed to raise $30K in 30 days! This round of funding would go towards a new kitchen space that will increase the capacity to keep developing and churning out these tasty treats. You can visit the page here and help support the campaign as well as grab some exclusive Beer Paws creations for you and your dog!

I was able to catch up with Crystal and picker her brain about founding Beer Paws and where she sees her sustainable startup in the future.
beer paws
Courtesy of Bark Industries

How did you come up with the idea to start making Beer Paws treats?

After I introduced my bottle openers for dog collars, I started R&D on other products that could incorporate both dogs and drinking. I stumbled on a recipe homebrewers were using to make dog treats from their spent grains and decided to try it myself. I connected with some homebrewers and started experimenting. Before I knew it, breweries came calling.

What were the Brewers first reactions to you essentially using a waste product of theirs to create an entirely new product?

Typically, when I approach a brewery about partnering with Beer Paws, they are thrilled. Even if they have a relationship with a farmer, they are excited to have their spent grains “recycled” into a fun product that doubles as a marketing tool for their brewery. Several brewers have told me they wish I could take more of their grains. Expanding my company’s production capacity should make that possible very soon.

How do you use the idea of sustainable cooking in your own kitchen making Beer Paws?

I would actually like to make my process more sustainable. Again, increasing my production capacity will help me do that. In general, though, I aim to waste as little as possible – from grains to eggs and peanut butter.

You’re personally a dog mother to two rescues and brand ambassadors, how has beer paws worked with rescues and what are your plans for the future?

Beer Paws partners with rescues and shelters all the time for special events and online campaigns. I initially started the company as a means for myself to be able to give back more money to animal welfare organizations. As my production capacity expands, look for Beer Paws to start sponsoring organizations and individual rescue dogs more, through the donation of both funds and product.

What’s the greatest challenge you’ve faced creating a sustainable product like beer paws?

Unless you are linked in to the brewing community, most people don’t understand what spent grains are. At a time when gluten-free is all the rage – for both people and pet foods – broadcasting that the key ingredient in my dog treats is grain doesn’t always meet with initial enthusiasm from some people. However, once I explain to them that spent grains are actually high-protein and high-fiber, they tend to come around.

Overall, launching any kind of new business is just a huge challenge in itself. At first, even the people closest to me thought I was crazy. They didn’t all get it earlier this year when I took the leap and left my full-time job to increase focus on Beer Paws. But the more energy I put into this, the more results everyone can see. There are new challenges every day, but I don’t want to be doing anything else with my life right now.
How did you come up with your awesome dog beer ? Are there any similar things in the works?
I can’t have a company called Beer Paws and not have a beer. Haha. There was actually already a dog beer on the market, but none made here in the Midwest. What’s been awesome about the beer is that it has had unintended results. What I thought was a novelty product turned out to help finicky dogs eat. Some customers really credit this product with getting their dogs on a better eating schedule. And, of course, the glucosamine in the brew is helpful, too.

What was the tipping point for you to jump all in to Beer Paws?

Well, I’m pretty much all in. I do work from home for another company a few hours per week, but Beer Paws is my #1 job now.

What are your drinking buddies favorite brewery you’ve partnered with so far? Yours?

I always say I have the same respect for all of my brewery partners, and it’s true! The thing about craft brewing is that every brewery is unique, with its own special story. For example, I love that Blue Blood Brewing Company has that police connection, because I come from a law enforcement family. I love that Infusion brings that surfer vibe to the Midwest. I love that Kansas City Bier Company and I started our businesses at about the same time and happen to be across-the-street neighbors.

On that note, my drinking buddies Coconut and Kona probably have a special place in their hearts for KC Bier Co, because the added action in the neighborhood gives them something to observe during the day. Sadly, I rarely take my dogs to the dog-friendly biergarten, because they aren’t the kind of dogs that really enjoy being away from their homestead. 

What’s been the most incredible experience since starting Beer Paws?

That’s an unfair question! So many incredible things happen every single week. When Boulevard picked up my Beer Biscuits to carry in their gift shop, that was kind of a game changer. I remember getting my first check from them in the mail, and it was personally signed by Boulevard founder John McDonald. I definitely did a happy dance for my dogs in my kitchen. The company he built and the influence its had throughout the beer world and in the community of Kansas City is so amazing. Any entrepreneur should want to achieve so much.

Do your treats make a good happy hour snack for dog’s best friend too?

You know it! That’s why Beer Paws loves co-hosting “yappy hour” events at breweries and bars – so drinking buddies can their respective treats. We do a weekly yappy hour in Lincoln at White Rabbit and often do one-off events at breweries (like the Oct. 18 Bark-toberfest at Nebraska Brewing Company).

Also, Beer Paws Beer Biscuits are a healthy happy hour snack. My dogs eat more of them than any other dogs in the world, I am certain, and neither one of them gets fat. High-protein, high-fiber! 

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