(CNN) – Here’s something we can all toast to: A British brewer perfected a way to turn excess bread from bakeries and sandwich shops into a popular craft beer.
Toast Ale uses upcycled bread (roughly one slice per pint) to replace a third of the barley normally used in beer-making. At the same time, food waste is avoided and environmental pollution is reduced.
Louisa Ziane, the chief operating officer, says the technique is actually based on a historical brewing method from Mesopotamia.
“The ancient Babylonians created a divine drink that was made by fermenting bread,” she says. “It wasn’t a beer as we know it today – it was probably more like an alcoholic porridge – but the basic idea of fermenting a grain to preserve the nutrients and create that extra intoxicating effect was the origin of brewing. “”
Toast Ale uses upcycled bread to make craft beer.
Tom Moggach / Courtesy Toast Ale
Toast Ale has partnered with 56 breweries in 7 countries to share its modern bread-to-beer method and advance its larger mission to bring the entire industry on board to tackle regional waste. Increasingly, it is not alone in this fight.
Waste is the newest celebre in the food and beverage world. The USDA estimates that 30-40% of the US food supply is wasted between production and purchase. It’s a similar story around the globe.
That’s why more and more forward-thinking producers are using discarded foods to create ales and spirits that combine good taste with a good cause.
“The food system is the biggest contributor to climate change and biodiversity loss. So by addressing food system inefficiency, we have a great opportunity to take action to curb climate change,” says Ziane. “Plus, food is a great way to get people involved in climate solutions without them feeling guilty.”
Below are nine brewers and distilleries that, like toast ale, turn today’s garbage into tomorrow’s alcohol.
Björn Steinar has developed a simple distillation machine with which Catch of the Day vodka is made from discarded fruit.
Catch of the day, Iceland
Björn Steinar is a product designer and “professional dumpster diver” who is so firmly convinced that we shouldn’t tolerate food waste that he visits the trash cans of food importers in Reykjavik to make handcrafted vodka from fruits thrown away due to fluctuations in supply demand.
Steinar uses a simple open source distillation machine to show how anyone with change and space in their garage can recreate their methods.
Catch of the Day spirits are available in different fruit flavors.
The resulting Catch of the Day spirits are available in flavors such as blood orange, melon, or apple to ensure these unwanted fruits survive all best-before dates forever.
Where there’s a will, there’s a whey – at least that seems to be the motto of this Tasmanian microdistillery that turns whey (the liquid that remains after curdling and sifting milk) into award-winning spirits.
The Hartshorn Distillery produces the world’s first vodkas, whiskeys and gins from sheep’s whey. The latter contain rare Australian botanicals and won a gold medal at the 2018 World Gin Awards.
The Hartshorn Distillery in Australia produces vodkas, whiskeys and gins from sheep’s whey.
Courtesy of the Hartshorn Distillery
It’s common in the industry to mask your base ingredient with triple distillation, but creator Ryan Hartshorn double distills his spirits (and doesn’t filter them) so the natural flavor profile of the whey shows through when sipped clean.
The idea came to the so-called “vodka shepherd” as a creative way to recycle waste from his family’s Grandvewe dairy, which makes blue, manchego and spreadable sheep cheese from the same animals from which the spirits are born.
Dairy Distillery near Ottawa produces “Vodkow” by converting unused milk sugar into gluten-free alcohol.
Milk Distillery, Canada
Hartshorn isn’t the only one in the dairy business who converts animal by-products into alcohol.
The Dairy Distillery near Ottawa produces silky smooth vodka by converting unused milk sugar (known as permeate) into a gluten-free spirit called vodkow.
The process goes back over a thousand years with the Mongols, who have long been fermenting lactose into alcohol.
Most global dairy farmers these days dispose of their milk permeate, which is an expensive process for safety reasons.
The Dairy Distillery saw an opportunity in this waste and, in collaboration with the University of Ottawa, perfected a production process for a lactose-loving yeast that has half the carbon footprint of distilleries with grain, corn or potatoes.
The resulting product is served in an old milk bottle – a reminder of the unexpected origins of vodka.
Adversity Vodka, California
Vodka can apparently be made from all sorts of crazy basic ingredients, including donuts, croissants, cupcakes, cookies, and even twinkies!
Unsurprisingly, the Misadventure Vodka is the world’s first alcohol made from excess pastry, often avoided by food banks that prefer more nutritious options.
Those starches, which would otherwise land in landfills and produce methane when decomposed, are instead converted into sugar, which is then consumed by microscopic yeasts to form a spirit that has nothing to do with its baking ancestry.
In fact, Misadventure Vodka is a perfectly smooth and neutral addition to any cocktail when it’s distilled a whopping 12 times and packaged in dark brown bottles.
Raspberries rejected by supermarkets are used to distill Greensand Ridge’s Raspberry Ghost Brandy.
Courtesy Greensand Ridge
Greensand Ridge, United Kingdom
With Greensand Ridge, the UK’s first carbon neutral distillery, the seasonal surplus on Kent’s farms (and the regional food system) can determine which spirits are produced.
In practice, this means tailor-made apple, plum and raspberry brandies as well as gins that speak to the local raw materials and are not suitable for supermarkets.
Founder Will Edge also makes a delicate honey-like rum from the excess molasses from sugar production, which is a far cry from mass-produced Caribbean rums, where added sugars and spices often mask the spirit.
To complete the loop, Edge Greensands uses its own organic waste as feed for local boars.
Researchers have developed a new way to make an alcoholic drink from tofu whey.
Courtesy of the National University of Singapore
Called Sachi, it’s made using an innovative fermentation technique that actually fortifies it with calcium, prebiotics, and isoflavones, which researchers say may help protect against cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and hormone-dependent cancers.
The sake-like drink has an alcohol content of approx. 8% and is said to be slightly sweet with fruity and floral notes.
There’s no word yet on when Sachi will go into commercial production, but it is hoped it could play a key role in reducing waste in the burgeoning vegetable protein market.
Ventura Spirits, California
The sad truth of our picky consumption habits is that some fruits just aren’t pretty enough for the supermarket.
That doesn’t mean, however, that they taste worse to their brothers who make it onto the fruit aisle.
The brandy goes through a four year aging process in neutral French oak barrels, so the strawberries that aren’t ready for prime time have a chance to become the stars of the show.
Atlas Brew Works, Washington, DC
In cooperation with the organic market of MOM and the environmental working group Ugly & Stoned, the topic of food waste will be put on the table and a simple and creative solution to the problem will be presented.
Kettle Acid American Ale is a hot brew that, like all designs at this Washington DC brewery, is made 100% from solar energy.
Foxhole Spirits uses surplus supermarket grapes to make its sustainably produced HYKE gin.
Courtesy Foxhole Spirits
Foxhole Spirits, UK
Even pretty fruit can easily be wasted in the myriad steps between production and purchase. For example, the cutting, trimming and packaging of table grapes for supermarket baskets leaves loose fruits and tiny grapes that are never sold as fresh.
The British producer converts excess supermarket grapes into alcohol, mixes it with a grain spirit and then spices the mixture with 15 botanicals – including coriander, myrrh and rooibos – to make its sustainably produced HYKE gin.
Foxhole also launched the HYKE Signature range to use more fruit that would otherwise not be used, including discarded oranges for a gin and tonic with a zesty taste.
In a happy twist of fate, the rejected fruit ends up back in UK supermarkets like Tesco as an adult-only product that is unlikely to go to waste.