The Real Junk Project, Wasted, Beer, NORTHERN MONK BREW Co.
Credit: © Tom Joy

As inherently awesome as beer is, the brewing process can also be inherently wasteful. Even the term “brewing” itself implies a bit of waste: Much like coffee is brewed from beans, beer is brewed from malts to extract their fermentable sugars, and though more breweries are looking for ways to use these “spent grains,” much like your morning coffee grinds, these leftovers are often tossed.

But a brewery in Leeds, England, is the latest brewer to believe it’s found a better way. Earlier this year, Northern Monk Brew Company released Wasted, billed as possibly the “world’s first zero waste beer.” Though the meaning of “zero waste” isn’t always strict in projects like this, Northern Monk, together with The Real Junk Food Project, a network that specializes in addressing food waste, took steps to try to make Wasted as waste-free as the name is pun-full.

Wasted is a pear farmhouse ale made out of overripe pears and stale croissants and brioche that would otherwise have been discarded. After the brewing process, all the spent grains and hops are donated to farms for feed or fertilizer. The Champagne yeast is reused in other brews. And when packaged, the beer goes into bottles made from 100 percent recycled glass.

“Brewing beer naturally creates waste so we wanted to find a way to change that,” brewery founder Russell Bisset told the Metro. “We wanted to look at using raw ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste.” The concept is similar to what the Brussels Beer Project in Belgium did last year, making beer from unsold loaves of bread collected from local markets, or to the beer Dogfish Head released in October with the help of Mario Batali, called – nearly identically – WastED made from food waste like overripe tomatoes, rotten grapefruit and stale bread.

However, reducing waste in the brewing process goes beyond the ingredients that go into a beer or the spent materials that come out of it. For instance, water usage can be a big issue with brewing, especially for steps many people might overlook like cleaning out equipment. Northern Monk’s Wasted doesn’t seem to address the water issue head on, so its parsers could try to pick its “zero waste” claim apart. Still, any beer that tries to make the world a better place is probably a brew worth toasting.