A pint-sized slice of genius – Toast Ale

By Louisa Ziane, Toast Ale

A single sandwich manufacturer for a major retailer discards 13,000 slices of bread every day. The bread is fresh, delicious and nutritious but it is the heel end of the loaf that doesn’t make the cut in the production of prepackaged sandwiches. Apparently consumers won’t buy crustwiches. It was this startling fact, and an aptly timed visit to the Brussels Beer Project, that inspired Tristram Stuart, the renowned food waste expert, to create Toast ale.

We partnered with Hackney Brewery to create our initial batches and our latest is with the award-winning Hambleton ales in Ripon, Yorkshire. We’re not a brewery ourselves – we’d describe ourselves as nomadic brewers that collaborate with experts across the country to leverage their skill, experience and local knowledge. We’re at the beginning of the journey and the more brewers that are willing to collaborate, the better. We’re challenging the brewing community to use their skills at the service of what was once beer’s principal purpose: preserving foods that otherwise would be wasted through fermentation.

We’ve made our recipe open source, giving with full details of the ingredients and the process. Basically, we source surplus bread from a local sandwich maker, toast it and use it with malted barley in the grain bill, adding hops, yeast and water. We’re encouraging professional brewers to work with us, and for home brewers to use their leftover bread to brew in kitchens, garages and garden sheds up and down the country. It’s estimated that 44% of all bread produced in the UK is thrown away, with half of that occurring in our homes, so we want to encourage everyone to get involved at any scale.

The icing on the cake (or should it be butter on the bread?!) is that we are giving all profits to the charity Feedback. Feedback works tirelessly to raise awareness of food waste and the simple, delicious, fun solutions to it. It also campaigns against practices that cause food waste all along the food chain, from supermarkets rejecting crops due to cosmetic standards to EU regulations that prevent catering waste being fed to livestock. So when people buy a bottle of Toast ale (online at www.toastale.com and at selected stockists across London and beyond), they are not only saving a slice of bread that would otherwise be wasted, they are also helping to change to our broken food system.

We’re delighted to be a Food Made Good Approved Supplier, which means we’ve passed the SRA’s audit of our sourcing, impact on society and the environment. Transparency is an important tool in fighting food waste and independent audits certainly help. We know we’ve saved almost 500kg of bread since we launched in January 2016, but we want retailers and bakeries to say how much they are wasting. Tesco was the first supermarket to quantify, monitor and publish its food waste statistics, after pressure from Feedback, and we encourage others to do the same.

We hope we’re catalysing a global brewing movement and helping to change consumer consciousness about food waste. Whilst enjoying a delicious beer, of course.

If you’re interested in stocking Toast Ale in your restaurant, pub, bar or cafe, please contact us at [email protected]

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