The toast of great brewing

Toast Ale is a beer brewed with surplus bread that would otherwise be?wasted. All profits go to the food waste charity, Feedback. We spoke to Toast Ale’s Julie Prebble to find out more about this project?

Where did the idea for beer made out of waste first come from?

Toast’s founder, Tristram Stuart, is an author and campaigner on the social and environmental issues of food production. With more than ten years of experience in this field, he was well aware that bread is the biggest problem within food waste - given how popular, relatively good value/low price and how short life it is. 44% of bread is wasted in the UK. And so when Tristram discovered Brussels Beer Project’s ( a Belgian Brewery) Babylone beer, which is made from surplus bread, he was inspired to launch Toast Ale. Their beer tasted great! The Brussels Beer Project team shared their recipe expertise and helped in the very first brew of Toast Ale in London. This was a key step in the start of a beer business that could be part of the solution – brewed with a slice of surplus bread in every bottle – and a great way to raise awareness of the issue with beer drinkers. With all of Toast Ale’s profits going to Feedback to support their fight against food waste, we hope that their success in their campaigning will ultimately eliminate waste bread.

When did you first identify the amount of bread waste??

Tristram discovered the scale of this waste over ten years ago. 24 million slices of bread are thrown away in the UK! This has to stop.

How do you go about collecting the bread??
Our very first brew was collected by volunteers collecting surplus unsold bread from many bakeries local to the brewery. The unsold loaves were taken to the brewery and brewed the next day. Now that our brews are bigger, we continue to brew with surplus bread close to breweries – however we now brew with larger scale sources of surplus, mainly from sandwich makers who discard the heel ends of loaves before they start production.

How is the bread used when making the beer??
The bread replaces one third of the grain bill. Like the malted barley, it is a source of sugars that are fermented in the beer making process. The fresh surplus bread is ripped into small pieces and added along with the barley at the start of the brew.

What distinctive flavours does it impart??

The bread itself does not impart the main flavour of our beer, our expert brewers instead use the choice of grains in the grain bill along with specific hops to create the delicious aroma and flavours of Toast Ale.

Can you make any kind of beer from it??

Pretty much! We’ve been overwhelmed with how both expert and amateur brewers have been inspired by the potential of brewing great beers with bread. This summer we are adding a craft lager and a sessionable pale ale alongside our pale ale. In our first year we’ve brewed a porter and an amber bread pudding inspired beer too. People are still talking about that one!
Our challenge is more about how much bread can replace the barley in the grain bill. We hope over time to increase from 30% to closer to 40% of the grain bill.

What has the feedback from the industry been like??

Fantastic! We’ve been thrilled by the coverage we’ve received. However, what is most important is that the beer tastes great and that our customers repeat their orders. We’ve seen this time and again and we’re pleased to say that as we hit our first birthday our sales are greater than ever.

How has it influenced how people think about bread and beer?

We like to think of ourselves as a message in a bottle. Craft beer is a great industry to be a part of. It is a market in growth and craft beer drinkers want to know the story behind the beers they enjoy. Where was it brewed? And why?
We hope that drinkers enjoy the beer and that over their beer it also prompts a thought or a conversation about the issue of food production. By drinking our beer rather than another then the beer fan is part of the solution, but there are other steps each can do to play their part in reducing the issue.

Finally, what are your plans for the future?

As we move into our second year it is about continuing to grow the business and grow our impact. We’re focusing on that here in the UK with the two additional new beer styles. And we’re also launching Toast internationally, with brews imminent in Iceland and the US – as well as many other locations where both bread and beer are popular.