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Island brewery turns surplus bread into top selling beer

Turning leftover bread into beer sounds such a good idea, it’s a wonder all breweries aren’t making beer this way. 

Fortunately for the islanders of Bute, the Bute Brew Co is one of the few in Scotland who are doing exactly that. The island-based brewery recently launched its own 5.1% alcohol craft beer named ‘Thoroughbread,’ made entirely from unsold loaves of bread donated from the local Co-op store.

“Our customers absolutely love this beer,” says Aidan Canavan, owner of Bute Brew Co. “And they love it when they find out how it is made too.” Aidan was first introduced to the idea of using wasted bread to make beer by Liz Adams, who used to run a neighbouring pop-up restaurant in Bute. Liz wanted to do something about the leftover bread both at her restaurant and local supermarkets.

“I was sceptical at first about the beer I must admit,” says Aidan. “I was finally persuaded to give it go when I met with the Zero Waste Scotland guys and they introduced us to specialist food and drink consultants. They were very enthusiastic and persistent about the opportunity of making beer from waste bread presente.Backed by the Scottish Government and European funding, Zero Waste Scotland was able to provide the seed funding for the consultancy to work with Aidan to research and develop the process.

Aidan had learned through running the Bute Brew Co, which he founded in 2014, that good ideas can take quite a bit of work to bring to reality. “I knew from my experience of starting the brewery that it might take some trial and error to get things right,” he explains, “and we did have some problems at first, but these are now sorted and it’s proving to be incredibly popular.”

In fact, so popular it it proving, that Aidan would love to expand the production of ThroroughBread. However, problems of space and the labour-intensive nature of processing the bread ready for brewing are curtailing his ambitions for now. “We can’t mass produce the beer as present as we have to slice all the bread by hand and at 100 kilos a batch, that’s a lot of bread to get through.” he explains. He does aim to mechanise the process in the future if possible. “I’d like to install some bread slicing machines which will definitely transform the amount we can produce.”

The 100 kilos of leftover bread replaces 50kg of malt, which is a portion of the malt normally used to make 1000 litres of beer, bringing a welcome saving on the ingredients bill for Aidan. Making the beer is a fascinating process that involves toasting using the heat from the brewery’s own onsite pizzeria oven (the brewery is also a food and events venue), freezing it then adding it to a mash and mixing with citrus and spicy American and UK hops to create a very drinkable, fruity beer with a delicious twist. “The bread brings an almost rye flavour to the beer,” says Aidan.

The whole concept of being able to divert unsold loaves from landfill and transform them into a highly desirable beer is one that now really appeals to Aidan. “When you live on a small island, where there are limited resources and space, the impact of the waste generated by our modern lifestyles is brought into sharp focus. Before I moved to Bute, I lived in Glasgow where I didn’t have to think much about it because it is taken away and dealt with elsewhere. Here, where our universe is just 16 miles long by four miles wide, waste is a problem you can’t ignore, and finding ways to reduce it is one way we can protect this fragile and beautiful environment. I think that’s why being able to use up leftover bread in this way is particularly exciting for us,” says Aidan.

For more information about Bute Brew Co, see www.butebrewco.co.uk.

The initial set up and production of ThoroughBread beer was made possible by ERDF-funded investment from Zero Waste Scotland.

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