Cheers for Beer

First the facts and stats: globally thirty-percent of all food—with bread a leading offender due to its short shelf life—is wasted, amounting to 1.3 billion tons annually. Compounding matters, food waste is now the largest single contributor to landfill where it produces methane gas, which is at least twenty-eight times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Next a reason to cheer: beer to the rescue! Toast Ale makes a virtue of an overproduction and food waste problem in the UK where over 900,000 tons—about 24 million slices every day—of bread is wasted every year. At the time of this writing, Toast Ale, the brainchild of food waste activist and author Tristram Stuart, has substituted a million slices of salvaged bread—a volume equal to 1.5 times the size of Everest—for one-third of the malted barley typically used in brewing beer. If that math is too dizzying, it’s enough to know that Stuart’s recipe uses roughly one slice of bread per bottle of beer.

After Toast Ale launched in the UK in 2016 with immediate success, Stuart partnered with Chelsea Craft Brewing Company in NYC to produce its first batch of American Pale Ale in March 2017. Toast Ale in America began with a bang—fulfilling orders from Whole Foods as well as bars and restaurants in NYC (Tom Colicchio’s Craft and Dan Barber’s Blue Hill among them), Long Island, and the Hudson Valley. A little more than a year into operations, Toast Ale in the US has repurposed more than 140,000 pieces of bread otherwise destined for landfill and brewed 12,097 gallons of beer.

Toast Ale’s craft beers include Purebread Pale Ale, Bloomin’ Lovely Session IPA, Born and Bread APA, and Much Kneaded Craft Lager. They aren’t just clever; they are generous too. They’ve brewed collaboration beers like Flour Power with Friends of the Earth and Stroud Brewery, and Bread Pudding with Wiper & True in the UK. In New York, the company collaborated with the brewery at Mario Batali’s Eataly, where bread from the emporium’s bakery was brewed on site into an IPA served at Eataly’s rooftop beer garden. They’ve even posted a recipe for home brewing and free commercial use.

Toast Ale’s commitment goes beyond making use of bread otherwise destined for the trash. To achieve their mission of zero waste, they also use steel kegs that, once empty, are collected from pubs, cleaned and reused. Their glass bottles are locally sourced and contain typically 43% recycled content with the remainder made up of sand sourced locally and other naturally occurring raw materials. As a final measure, they send their spent grain to a local farm where it is fed to animals or used to return nutrients to the soil.

A certified B-corp, Toast Ale donates 100% of profits to a charity called Feedback, which takes as its primary objective the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3: By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.

Who knew zero waste could be so much fun!