Want to save the planet by drinking beer? With Toast Ale, you can.
The colossal amount of food waste produced and the destruction of the environment gained huge traction in the media in 2018 and we have seen individuals and companies make strides towards bettering themselves and becoming more conscientious about what we consume and how our habits affect the planet that we live on. One company who has been championing change since 2015 is Toast Ale – a company formed by Tristram Stuart, award-winning author and campaigner on the environmental and social impacts of food production, that pledges to help halve food waste by 2025.
We first came across Toast Ale at Stepney Spirits & Beer Club, which we put on with Boozers without Borders, and were blown away by their mission, knowledge and, of course, excellent beers. Whilst there are many F&B companies out there doing their bit to be anti-waste through sustainable practices, foraging and local sourcing, few are really looking into large-scale mass production, which is what needs to happen if we are to truly affect the future of food.
Toast Ale is one such that is not shying away from the challenge and – alongside Tristram’s charity Feedback – is making huge steps towards disrupting the industry. We caught up with the team to find out more.
What is the idea behind Toast?
The light-bulb moment came when our founder, Tristram Stuart, met the guys behind Brussels Beer Project and tried their Babylone beer – a beer based on a 7,000-year-old “divine drink” made with fermented bread and brewed with bread surplus.
It was absolutely delicious and really hit the mark – what better way to preserve bread than by brewing beer? Given that a single supermarket sandwich supplier throws away 13,000 slices of bread a day, brewing beer from surplus bread felt like a global, scalable solution to the problem. It’s a win, win for everyone.
How did it come into being?
A small team, with support from an advisory board, developed the recipe and branding – we set out on a mission to tackle the mountain of UK bread waste by brewing locally sourced bread at a brewery in Hackney, set up the operating structure and established sales channels. We launched in January 2016 in conjunction with support and endorsement from Jamie Oliver on Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty’s Friday Night Feast.
Talk to us about food waste
Food production is the biggest impact we have on the planet, yet globally we waste one-third of all food produced – that’s 1.3 billion tonnes every year. In the UK, bread is the worst offender – 44% of bread produced is never consumed.
There are a number of pretty scary stats out there about the amount of food waste, so we’re helping people engage with the scale of the issue through a product which really champions the delicious solutions that exist to help reduce its impact.
Where does your bread come from?
Our ‘surplus’ bread comes from two main sources. Firstly, we work in partnership with industrial scale sandwich makers and use the crust and first slice of each loaf to produce our core range of beers which are sold nationally.
But we appreciate that a lot of bread waste occurs locally, so we also work in conjunction with local bakers and brewers to produce one off collaboration brews – these are one-of-a-kind beers that use a variety of bread types. For example, we’ve just brewed a collaboration brew with Mad Squirrel using surplus bread from a local baker called Adelie, to name one of many.
Where do the profits go?
We couldn’t be prouder to pour all our profits into environmental charity, Feedback, which works internationally to improve the environmental impact of food. The work they do to influence the narrative around the environment and social impacts of food production is shifting the balance and making these issues more mainstream.
If you want to change the world, you need to throw a better party than those destroying it!
Beer felt the right opportunity for us to reach a larger number of people with our message. Although sustainability issues are certainly influencing more and more decisions, beer is a product that allows people to engage in a more relaxed way and helps us raise awareness of food waste in a more positive way.
How is Toast Ale made?
The brewing process is very simple – in fact it’s true to some of the earliest beer recipes on earth. Beer is one of the earliest known ways of preserving the calories in bread. The sugars in the carbohydrates in the baked grains are converted to simple sugars by enzymes, which ferment over time with the presence of yeast to produce alcohol.
In simple terms, we just replace a third of the barley at the beginning of the brewing process with bread and let the yeast do its magic.
But is it any good?!
It’s amazing, but of course we’re biased.
We’ve entered it into a number of beer competitions and have won numerous awards including The Great Taste Awards, International Beer Challenge recognition and various other taste credentials – most importantly all our consumers seem to be enjoying it too!
Talk us through your product range
We have four core beers in our product range:
- Much Kneaded Craft Lager
- Purebread Pale Ale
- Bloomin’ Lovely Session IPA
- Born and Bread American Pale Ale
Though we also are involved in a number of the collaboration beers, you can find details of these on our social channels and website www.toastale.com.
Where can we buy Toast Ale?
We licensed the Toast Ale brand as far as New York, Brazil, South Africa and Iceland. Though closer to home, you can find us stocked in pubs, restaurants and shops all over the country. Our Much Kneaded Craft Lager and Bloomin’ Lovely Session IPA are in Tesco stores across the UK, whereas you can find our Purebread Pale Ale in Waitrose stores. Let us know if there is a shop near you that should have us!
What bars and restaurants can we find you in in London?
You can now find us in certain Stonegate pubs (find your local here), like Lock17 in Camden for example, and soon we’ll be launching in The Alchemist locations across the capital with more and more venues coming on board every week.
If you’re after a Toast with your meal, we are working in partnership with EAT (we actually brew using their surplus bread), as well as a number of independent restaurant chains across London.
This year, we will brew with our 1 millionth slice of bread, which is really exciting. Next, we’re eyeing up our 1 billionth. We want to see the entire beer industry working with us and brewing with bread to help tackle waste.
What can we do to help reduce food waste?
Really simply, think about what your purchasing next time you’re in the supermarket – rather than shopping for bits and bobs, make sure you’re armed with an ingredient list to cover the meals you’re cooking that weak. Look for ways of getting more meals out of the ingredients you buy – if you’ve bought a pack of something, get inventive with your recipes to make sure it doesn’t just sit in the fridge until it’s time to throw it out!
We’ve also open-sourced our bread beer recipe online and would encourage anyone to work with their local bakery or retailer to have a go at brewing your own Toast beer made from end of day loaves.
There is a load of amazing businesses out there who are looking to tackle this issue – so keep a look out for apps that offer you surplus restaurant food at a reduced rate, through to food products that upcycle amazing ingredients that had been deemed surplus.