Bread is one of the most wasted food items in the world. A relatively cheap product with a short shelf life, bread is chucked out at an astonishing rate. In fact, almost half of all discarded food is bread!
Home-grown start-up Breer has an ancient solution and appealing idea to combat this problem: brewing beer using stale bread. The team at Breer are not reinventing the wheel here, with the oldest surviving beer recipe featuring bread as a main ingredient. In fact, kvass in Russia and Ukraine and bouza in Egypt and Sudan are beers made from bread. But with modern environmental concerns and the amount of waste that comes from the beer industry, it is high time we start thinking about how to upcycle as much as possible.
“This food upcycling start-up addresses the prominent problem of bread waste in Hong Kong by introducing the unique model of using bread to brew premium-quality craft beer.” – Breer founders
Put simply, bread is solid beer and beer is liquid bread. Both use the same fundamental ingredients – grain, water, yeast and flavourings – along with salt for bread and hops for beer.
It’s no secret that bread and beer have both been proposed as the impetus for the development of agriculture and even civilisation as a whole. While it’s unclear which came first, it is clear that some of the earliest bread baking was done for the explicit purpose of brewing beer. There is even some scholarly discussion about which came first, beer or bread.
Breer’s story begins like this...
Breer was started by four students from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), and the team’s ethos is “to make the world a better place for all”.
The four student entrepreneurs and founders – Suyash Mohan, Anushka Purohit, Deevansh Gupta and Naman Tekriwali – entered the Enactus Cup HKUST Social Innovation Challenge looking to solve a large-scale problem through business innovation while also delivering social impact.
One night after their exams had finished, the four went to their local bakery late in the evening and noticed all the excess bread products being bagged up and sent to the landfill. Not long after that, through a chance encounter with a bartender who talked about making craft beer, they learned that bread can be used to brew beer owing to the same raw-material composition the two products share.
This was their “aha” moment, the idea with which they entered the Enactus competition. Submitting their business plan won the team the local HKUST round and the ability to represent Hong Kong in regional rounds. Taking some sourdough bread from the campus kitchen, the team went on to create their first 20L test batch for the regional final. Then after officially being named the Enactus Project of the Year, the team earned their first cash injection. Instead of splitting the money, they decided to reinvest the capital into creating larger test batches, giving Breer the opportunity to host several pop-ups across the city in order to test their products with the public.
The Breer team are all still part-time students and full-time entrepreneurs, and this thought-provoking project is still in the infant stage, but they are hoping to launch throughout Hong Kong (they’re in talks with local breweries to do so by mid-summer 2021). Their beers are currently on sale at zero-waste store Edgar HK in Wanchai and at some pop-up shops around town.
In the meantime, the team are brainstorming ideas on upcycling for the rest of the beer-brewing process, using the excess grain and bread for farm feed and compost.
Follow Breer on Instagram for updates and information about their upcoming pop-ups.
And the last words from the team: “Breer does good, tastes better.”
The Breer team conducting their pilot batch using wasted pizza crust
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