As the saying goes, “Everything old is new again.” In Belgium, a brewer is taking this concept to heart, using the oldest known method for brewing beer—making it from bread—as a way to help combat modern food waste by turning loaves slated for the garbage into a palatable brew.
Sebastien Morvan, one of the founders of the Brussels Beer Project microbrewery in Belgium, said the idea came to him while discussing the problem of food waste in the city. “Twelve percent of food waste in Brussels is bread,” Morvan told Reuters. “It's quite astonishing.” Though not a common ingredient in beer anymore, bread was historically the primary source of grain in ancient beers. In fact, the oldest surviving beer recipe—dating back about 4,000 years to Mesopotamia—uses loaves of bread.
Loosely following this ancient tradition, the Brussels Beer Project teamed with a local project called Atelier Groot Eiland to gather unsold bread from local markets. From there, they had to spend about a year perfecting a recipe. Beyond simply figuring out the proper ratio of bread to barley that would work for modern palates, the brewers also needed to perfect a way of cutting the bread loaves so they wouldn’t clog modern brewing equipment. Eventually, after working out a recipe that included hops from both the US and Britain and finding the right yeast strain, Babylone was born—a 7 percent amber brew described by Reuters as having “a subtly salty taste from the bread and a hoppy finish.”
“It's fusion between maybe what they used to do with bread 1,000 years ago and contemporary brewing,” Morvan said. “It might not please everybody's palate, but I think the ones who like this will really enjoy it.” Once again we see beer make the world a better place one pint at a time.