Beer is a fun and magical drink. It delivers countless flavors and - as consumers are get more and more adventurous - brewers are tinkering with more and more ingredients to push the envelope and spice things up with new variations. Now we’ve got a beer in the states called TOAST, a beer brewed with slices of bread along with Citra and Cascade hops. How about that? Yup, TOAST Pale Ale has been making waves over in England, is now available in New York, and prominently featured in the upcoming documentary Wasted.
It turns out that one of the largest categories for food waste in the U.S. is bread. Americans love sammiches but, as you know, establishments don’t serve the heels to guests. Ask any baker and they’ll tell you: there is major waste going on in that tasty industry. The statistic is actually that one-third of all bread in the U.S is wasted (that’s a lot of bagels!). TOAST aims to take the surplus from fresh bread that can’t be used, such as the end crust (note: this beer is NOT made with stale bread), and to craft a delicious new purpose for the carbohydrates that would otherwise end up in a landfill - BEER. Yup, there’s a slice of fresh surplus bread in each can of this smooth, refreshing ale.
TOAST’s biscuit-y, malty goodness is the product of Hambleton Ales in Ripon, England, and is available in the States as a contract brew via the Bronx's Chelsea Craft Brewing Company. The beer not only utilizes surplus bread that would otherwise go to waste, but the company is also set up so the proceeds actually go to fund the anti-waste movement via the charity Feedback. I’ll drink to that!
This process of using bread in a brew is not new. Brewers have been tearing up bread to turn it into a fermentable beverage since day one. The ancient Mesopotamians that invented beer paved the way for every pint you’ve ever crushed but especially for utilizing bread. Nowadays, with more advanced technologies and general expanded scientific knowledge, it’s rare to actually toss loaves into the tank...but it still happens. The recent GABF-gold medal winning Austin Beerworks currently has a sourdough ESB called Dough Boi, which will also be available at the Austin Alamo Drafthouse at WASTED screenings. Also, the illustrious Brussels Beer Project has a bitter dry hopped with Chinook hops that boasts TWO pieces of bread per bottle, brilliantly called Baby Lone.
So, how does this weirdo bread beer work, anyway? One of the main 4 ingredients of beer is malted barley (along with hops, water and yeast) and these grains give a finished beer its color and “maltiness.” Depending on the intentions of the brewer and the style of the beer, the malt can play with the hops to provide sweetness and bitterness balance (or lack thereof) in your final pint. For TOAST brews, the brewers replace about 1/3 of the barley grains with surplus bread right there in the brew kettle, so the bread gets boiled along with the two-row or six-row barley to make a sweet smelling mush something like a tea or an oatmeal. Then, that mush (technically called a “mash”) gets hops and yeast added, and after some fermenting time - yada yada yada - BOOM: you’ve got yourself a beer!
See more about this special beer as part of the upcoming documentary Wasted, and cheers to TOAST for raising awareness of this food waste issue (and for raising money for worthy charities that can continue to do the same and put a dent in this issue). Let’s drink our way out of this problem! Look for TOAST near you at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Brooklyn all month long!
Disclosure: Tim League owns BMD and co-founded NEON, whose Super LTD imprint is releasing Wasted.