Toast Ale - Tackling food waste one loaf at a time
Launched in Hackney in January 2016, Toast Ale is revolutionising London’s beer and bread industries. Tristram Stuart, founder of Toast Ale and the charity, Feedback, has campaigned against food waste all of his life. After a little research (and help from beer-brewers in Belgium), he discovered that it was possible to make incredibly delicious beer with surplus bread. However, his real lightbulb moment came about when visiting a British sandwich manufacturer, where a whopping 13,000 slices of bread were wasted every day. Why not take leftover crusts and turn them into a new product?
Working as nomadic brewers, Toast Ale did not require large capital costs upfront; and even now the team only has one full-time member. This keeps costs low and maximises profits, which all go towards Feedback. Therefore, as a social enterprise, pro-bono expertise was also handily available to design their beautiful label design, and to get their pre-launch PR kick-started.
Toast Ale’s special (but not secret) recipe has been adapted from that originally used in the Brussels Beer Project. Working with Hackney Brewery, the team at Toast Ale adapted and refined their method to create their distinctive Toast Ale. Not only is their recipe now readily available to those wanting to try making bready beer at home, but they are continuing to work closely with other brewers across the UK to create exciting regional variations of the product.
So far, Toast Ale’s recipe has had plenty of positive feedback from home-brewers, who are rising to tackle the challenges presented when brewing with bread. Taking the time to regularly meet members from the London Amateur Brewers, the Toast Ale team have discovered a real community of craft and home brewers who are mutually supportive; sharing the passion and knowledge with others.
Furthermore, Toast Ale has expanded its reach beyond London, brewing beer in both Yorkshire and Bristol. Across the UK, bread is the most wasted household product, with 24 million slices discarded every day. What’s worse, it’s estimate that 44% of bread produced is wasted – half of which occurs before consumers buy it. Sadly, Toast Ale can’t solve the whole problem. With food waste creating the third highest proportion of greenhouse gases of any human action in the UK, as well as consuming mass amounts of energy and water, Toast Ale is just a small part of Feedback’s campaign to fight food waste. We can all do our part of reduce food waste – whether that’s through consumer choices or up-cycling.
Toast Ale-lovers will be glad to hear that the team are currently working hard to continue building their brand and scope across the UK, as well as internationally – in Iceland and the US – so there is promise of more exciting new beer variations to come.
I asked the team whether they like bread or toast more?
“We love bread and want everyone to realise that it's too good to waste. But toast is an excellent way of extending the life of bread. And it makes excellent beer!”
Toast Ale’s top three tips for other food entrepreneurs?
- Join the Food Surplus Entrepreneurs Network
- Focus on the product - Toast ale is foremost a delicious ale that people enjoy drinking.
- Build a team of skilled and dedicated people - we are just four but we are all passionate and get involved in all aspects, from toasting the bread to promoting and selling through our personal networks.
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