Food waste is an undeniable issue; 2012 figures from WRAP (I can't see any newer numbers) show that UK households threw away 7 million tons of food waste. That's 260 kg per household, which is so high as to be almost unbelievable.
Of course, as always with statistics there is more to the story. 40% of that figure is taken up by things that can't really be dodged - "unavoidable" waste including bones, peel and 'tea waste', and "possibly avoidable" which strangely includes things like potato peelings. Still, even if you ignore those things, that's still a lot of food going in the bin.
Last month saw the launch of Toast Ale; a beer made with 'surplus bread', which both aims to reduce food waste directly, and to raise the issue; all profits going to food waste charity, Feedback. It's brewed by the folks down in Hackney Brewery, which makes it a pretty local brew for me, too.
Being a cynical soul, I did initially wonder if the 'surplus bread' component to the beer was just a symbolic slice or two tossed into the mash tun. I'm very happy to be proved wrong, however - the Toast Ale team have published their recipe (look out for my attempt to brew it soon) and the dried, crumbed bread takes up 25% of the grain bill.
So enough about the principle and the cause; how does Toast Ale actually taste?
It's a nice rich orange coloured ale, but it is a little flat looking in the glass. The aroma is sweet and honeyed; earthy hop notes, with just a little berry fruit tone beneath.
In the mouth, there is a nice dark sugar sweetness which is swiftly joined by a crisp hop dryness and a well balanced carbonation. Hints of dark fruit slowly come through, leading into quite a bitter finish - but remaining fresh and relatively light.
The thing I don't really get is any sort of toast character. Obviously you don't need to add bread to beer to get a toasty edge - careful malt selection can give a wonderfully toasted feel to a beer - but it feels like a missed opportunity not to give a beer called 'Toast' a really toasty taste.
That aside, it's a pretty tasty beer - approachable, easy drinking and supporting a good cause.
Many thanks to Toast Ale for providing samples of their beer!
This review was originally published 14th February, 2016. It was last updated 1st June, 2023.