We live in a world with beer that fights food waste, helps people serving prison sentences to find work and is eco-friendly. Who knew a humble pint could be so virtuous? We certainly didn’t – until Manufacture 2030 had the chance to chat with a few of the hottest names in brewing this week.

Brew, what, where?

Manufacture 2030 joined Peter Ball from the University of York and brewers from Tap SocialToast AleLoose Cannon and From Round Here at Tap Social’s site in Botley, Oxford, to brainstorm how to reduce the environmental footprint of brewing and identify any barriers along the way. One of the key aims of the session was to work out how to make progress in this area – and what ‘progress’ means - without spending a ridiculous amount on new technology. Madness, you say? Ale in a day’s work for the experts in the room, it seemed.

Tapping into the circular economy

Presentations given by Tap Social’s head brewer, Jason Bolger, and Toast Ale’s Chief Toaster, Rob Wilson, kicked off the discussion, providing insight into two very different breweries with shared environmental goals.

Tap Social was established in 2016, primarily as a means of helping people serving prison sentences to find work and smooth their transition back into society. Jason explained that the main focus of the brewery is working with local prisons, employing prisoners and allowing them to gain skills and work experience.

Besides being an asset to the local community, Tap Social’s environmental and circular economy practices are also strong.

“We work with a small local farm and give, rather than sell, spent grain to them. We help each other; once, the farmers stopped by [Tap Social] when it was raining so they couldn’t work and just helped us to bottle for a couple of hours. Also, when we hold food events here we try to use lamb that has been fed on our grain.”

– Jason Bolger - Tap Social

Their impressive story, unique selection of delicious beers and vibrant location on their oasis on the Curtis Industrial Estate in Oxford are all things to which we’d be happy to raise a glass!

Going against the grain

Rob Wilson then brought the best thing since some delicious substance came sliced to the table by introducing Toast Ale, the company that has risen to fame for tackling the food waste problem by making beer out of leftover bread.

Founded by Tristram Stuart, Toast Ale is trying to change consumer behaviour around food waste, using as much as they can of the 900,000 tonnes (the weight of approximately 13,000 elephants) of bread wasted in the UK each year to make their delicious brew.

“To change the world you have to throw a better party than the people destroying it. Each bottle [of Toast Ale] contains one slice of surplus fresh bread, and all profits go to the charity Feedback to fight food waste.”

– Rob Wilson - Toast Ale

The hop-ortunity to share knowledge

Following each company’s brief introductions, a relaxed but refreshingly candid discussion began about the work underway at each site to reduce the environmental footprint of brewing, how they could improve and any challenges encountered so far.

This conversation was open and productive, shedding light on the practices already in place at the breweries present, such as:

  • recycling waste materials via local businesses – using spent grain as cattle feed, for example;
  • using water left over from the brewing process to clean floors, and
  • establishing new locally-supplied sites across the world rather than racking up air miles by exporting beer around the world, but also highlighted further areas for improvement.

Perhaps more exciting and constructive, however, was the eagerness of all those present to ask questions, pitch ideas and remove any element of competition to air their challenges together. Just some of the questions raised were around:

  • bottle recycling, including how to deal with label removal and cleaning;
  • recyclable kegs and the best brands to use;
  • the benefits of using energy consultants to assess energy usage and areas for improvement, and
  • the most effective ways to monitor water usage.

Lessons were learned and questions answered throughout the morning, and we left Tap Social energised by the food (and drink) for thought provided by a diverse group of practitioners working to achieve the same environmental goals – but not without trying the beer, of course…    

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