It’s official – bread is Britain’s most wasted food. Sadly, us Brits have put the ‘bin’ in bread-bin, throwing away 4.4m tonnes of the stuff every year. That’s a colossal 24 million slices – enough to stretch the length of the Shard building almost 400 times. And that’s just household waste. I dread to think how much bread and bakery goods produced by supermarkets and bakeries are consigned to the landfill?
Bread wastage is also a big problem in Belgium, and being a nation renowned for their delicious, vibrant beers, it seems that the obvious direction to remedy this waste issue would be solved in the confines of a microbrewery.
CODUCO, a non-profit sustainability organisation, have teamed up with the Brussels Beer Project, to create ‘Babylone’ – a brand new, sustainable beer made from recycled, unsold bread.
Director of CODUCO, Rob Renaerts, explains the process of his innovative idea; “the bread wastage in Brussels is huge, both at an individual level and in supermarkets. I knew that bread could be used as a basis for fermentation, and almost automatically, I thought of beer. After some research, I realized that there were old bread-based beers as the ‘kvass’ in Russia. But in Belgium we had never tried – so I looked for a brewer could try.”
The Brussels Beer Project just so happened to be that brewer. Formed only two years ago by a pair of buoyant entrepreneurs, Olivier de Brauwere and Sébastien Morvan, they are a modern community brewery, who have cultivated their start-up venture through modern portals of crowd-funding drives, which have brought their brewing dreams to life. With a vision to create unique and experimental beers, a bread-waste-busting beer was right up their street and they got on board.
Co-founder, Olivier de Brauwere, explains how the Babylone project perfectly reflects the principle of the circular economy; “‘the idea of reusing things that are destined to be discarded to make new raw materials, in this case the flour that we use to make this beer with toasty aromas and saline.”
The Babylone project takes its inspiration, and name, from one of the oldest civilizations in history – Babylon. According to history, the Mesopotamian civilization of Babylon (now the southern portion of present-day Iraq) is where brewing began, with bread being fermented to create a very early version of beer. The brew was not like the beer of today, but was of a thick, porridge like consistency, massively popular at the time, being drank on a daily basis by the Babylonians.
The Brussels Beer project have now fused this old world process with new age hops. After much testing and prototyping, a recipe combining the surplus bread, the finest malts, as well as new varieties of hops (British hops and hops both the United States that provide flagrant bitterness to beer) were combined to create this sustainable brew. It is inspiring to see bread being used up in such a forward thinking, yet remarkably traditional way. Each month, half a tone of bread is used for a brew of 400 litres – that’s one and a half slices of bread for each bottle.
With the UK’s severe levels of bread wastage, alongside the current craft beer revolution sweeping the country, we should borrow the brew-print – sorry, blueprint – from our Belgian beer-master brothers (I mean, they do know a thing or two about beer) and hop (pun intended) on this sustainable bandwagon, salvaging our surplus bread to make delicious, waste-busting beer.
What are you waiting for microbreweries of Britain! Use your loaf, brew some good!