The day Toast Ale goes out of business is the day food waste is eradicated, according to the brewery’s founder, Tristam Stuart. Indeed, the growing problem of waste across the globe is prompting more and more British companies to look towards surplus food as a key resource, with notable entrepreneurs such as Tessa Cook and Ilana Taub placing the problem at the heart of their business’ objectives.
Toast Ale is no different: the bread-based beer-brewing business has become celebrated for its range of craft ales which use the household staple as a core ingredient.
Indeed, the concept behind Tristam Stuart’s social enterprise is bedded in fact: over 30 percent of food in the world goes to waste. Not only does this statistic represent a significant loss in value – but it also points to other issues such as starvation, food poverty and the obesity epidemic currently gripping Europe and the United States. 44 percent of bread bought in the United Kingdom is wasted, making it the most commonly wasted foodstuff – the cheap price of loaves combined with short shelf-life has created a situation in which tonnes of slices are discarded daily.
Toast Ale, however, has offered to play their part in tackling the global problem with their open beer recipe which uses one slice of surplus bread per bottle. The idea behind Toast Ale is nothing new – the oldest surviving beer recipe created by the ancient Mesopotamians places bread at the core of its ingredients. Arranged in just ten days, Stuart’s brewery visited restaurants, bakeries and cafes across the UK, collecting artisan bread and incorporating them into a brewing process with hops, water, yeast and barley. The ancient method has long been overlooked by the world of craft beer and has been revived by this social enterprise which donates all of its profits to FeedBack, a British charity committed to combating food poverty and wastage at each end of the food production process.
Tristam Stuart has challenged the market to put him out of business by eliminating food waste. Pieces of bread that would have been previously discarded have been given new purpose by Toast Ale, whose products can now be seen on supermarket shelves across the UK, including in Waitrose and Asda stores. The British entrepreneur was inspired to use bread in beer by a Belgian brewer, who followed the same concept and encouraged the idea of households brewing their own beer using leftover bread.
Surplus bread is often redistributed to food banks and charities to feed the homeless – if the bread is deemed unfit for human consumption, it can be used as animal feed. However, the brewers at Toast Ale only use bread that is destined for landfill. Whilst much waste bread can be used for composting or anaerobic digestion as a source of ‘green energy’, this disposal method is recognised as costly for most bakers and bread producers.
Once the surplus bread is collected, it is sliced, smashed and mashed into breadcrumbs, before being toasted and brewed with malt barley, hops and yeast to make the popular pale ale which boasts a distinctive taste to British drinkers, guaranteed by the caramel notes provided by the toasted bread. The founders hope to counterbalance the 24 million slices of bread binned by UK households every single day – a task made all the more achievable by the company’s open source recipe and charitable attitude.