World

Babylonian brew: Belgian makes beer from bread

Reuters

A small Brussels-based brewery has embarked on a project to make beer from leftover bread, harking back to antiquity, when bread was the main ingredient, rather than barley.

The idea for brewing with bread came when 31-year-old Frenchman Sebastien Morvan talked to a friend about food waste, specifically the bread thrown away because supermarkets, eager to offer fresh bread to shoppers all day, baked until late afternoon.

“Twelve percent of food waste in Brussels is bread — it’s quite astonishing,” said Morvan, one of the founders of the microbrewery Brussels Beer Project.

Morvan calculated that about 30 percent of the barley used in brewing could be replaced with one and a half slices of bread per bottle. Brewing 4,000 liters (1,057 gallons) would use 500 kg of bread. A nearby social project, Atelier Groot Eiland, arranged to get unsold bread from nearby supermarkets, dry it and cut it into flakes for him.

The oldest surviving recipe for beer dates back to Mesopotamia about 4,000 years ago. It calls for thick, multigrain loaves to be mixed with honey. The Belgian bread beer is more modern, using hops from the United States and Britain and adding yeast instead of relying on spontaneous fermentation.

Getting the recipe right took about a year.

The resulting beer, Babylone, is a 7 percent amber brew with a subtly salty taste from the bread and a hoppy finish. For now, most of it is being sold to local cafes and bars.