Craft beers from stale bread, the new green trend spreads through Italian master brewers

What if not wasting a crumb of bread helped meet the UN Agenda 2030 goals? What if beers, in the plural noun, were not only fruity, herbaceous, warm, spicy, peaty, smoky, bitter, barricaded, but absolutely green too?

Craft beer

Biova Project

In Italy, craft beer is also a synonymous for networking. The agreement between Unionbirrai, a trade association for small and independent breweries, and Biova Project, an innovative start-up created to recover wasted food throughout Italy, is dated February 2023. Objective: to fight food waste by creating craft beers that are the result of a circular and green economy in a country where 13 thousand quintals of bread are thrown away every day.

“Biova Project was born with the idea of creating products that can fight food waste. That is why we have built a logistical system of recovery: before being a brewery, we are a food innovation hub” explains Franco Dipietro, one of the founders of Biova Project. “We recover unsold products where they accumulate the most: the large-scale retail trade and bakery associations. Having this in mind, we have entered into an agreement with the National Association of Italian Bakers and Unionbirrai. We recover not only bread, but also waste food from dough processing. This year, we launched the world’s first beer from recovered pasta, the same thing we do with rice”, he said.

The purpose of Biova Project

“This is not a project of brewing beer from stale bread, but a circular upcycling economy, whose philosophy is to give a second life to all those foods that didn’t make it the first time, to processing waste. We also have a snack made from brewing waste: once we use bread, pasta or rice, along with barley malt to make beers, we also recover what is left over and create baked goods. It is essential to start thinking like this: we not only recover unsold food that should be disposed of but, more importantly, we do not use other raw material to make an equivalent product. So, we fall within the goals of sustainable development and reduce the use of raw materials”.

Snacks and beer made from recuperated bread and brewing residues
Biova Project

The projects of Biova

“We started three years ago from Piedmont and now we are also in Lombardy, Triveneto, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, and we are opening another collection center in Sicily. Biova is also involved in marketing and in the large-scale retail circuit, for example in Coop Consorzio Nord Ovest with a beer specially made from the recovery of their bread. We are in Eataly stores with Biova Eataly, where we use bread from the chain’s bakery. We also get to distribute in the “horeca” channels, that are hotels, restaurants and pubs.

In addition, we have regional projects: Biova Lago di Como comes from bread recovered by the association of bakers of the lake, as it does in Milan. Thanks to this process, we have something that would be lost otherwise: territoriality. The recovered bread comes from the territory and, by changing its origin, the result is always a different beer. Our latest agreement was signed with Ikea Italia, which, with its 22 stores, is the second largest restaurant group in the country in terms of quantity of food served and Biova is their signature beer”.

Recuperated bread
Bags of saved bread, essential raw material for “green” beer

Baladin Briciola

With the motto “bread is not wasted but drunk”, another beer was born the same aim: Baladin Briciola, the result of a project by Teo Musso, president of the Consorzio Birra Italiana and founder of Baladin, a brewery that started the Italian craft beer revolution 26 years ago. “In 1997”, he explains, “I made the first craft beers on the market, different from other Italian drinks in the restaurant industry. Isaac can pair with fresh cheeses, white meats and fish, and Super can pair with red meats and aged cheeses. This was a cultural revolution that brought beer closer to the path that wine had taken: smelling what was inside the glass before drinking represents the cornerstone of the cultural revolution of the craft product. We have two goals: to reach the restaurant world and to educate the drinker’s palate”.

Baladin Briciola
Baladin Briciola

Its characteristics

Beer is not an industrial mono-product that can only be paired with pizza. The pairing doesn’t come from a matter of taste indeed, because pizzerias initially couldn’t sell alcoholic products above 8°. Wine could not be sold, so beer was the only alcoholic drink allowed. We have many different types, from barrel-aged ones to a Pedro Ximénez Sherry, to an everyday one such as Briciola 4.8°, which immediately stands out for the scent of “freshly baked” bread, complemented by herbaceous and citrus notes. The low alcohol content makes the beer light and surprisingly delicate, in a perfect balance of notes of cereal, hops, flowers and citrus, as if it were liquid bread. It is a circular plan, where beers are sold by the same bakers who provided the unsold bread, as well as an online project.

“Redeem with Taste” project

There is also a place where craft beer, made with stale bread, goes beyond the circularity of the economy, enhancing the concepts of social sustainability. 

“Redeem with Taste” is the project by Taranto prison, which involve inmates waiting for a second life.

"Redeem with Taste" project
The poster of the “Redeem with Taste” project

The idea comes from master brewer Espedito Alfarano, who says, “our micro-brewery aims to produce a craft beer focusing on the sustainability of production, which, in the case of drinks, is among the most ‘inefficient’ in resource use. A brewery produces residues in surprising amounts: 92 percent of the ingredients used become production waste. Three main types of waste are produced during brewing: spent grains, that is the bran of the barley or grain used, the spent yeast, that is what remains of the yeast after fermentation, and process water.

This is a frightening scenario, so we thought about reusing the food waste, including some innovations in the production process, such as using stale bread from the prison, so as to reduce the use of cereal as the primary source of starch, and reusing the spent grains as a raw material in the production of beer breadsticks and, hopefully, whole-wheat cookies. This is a virtuous sustainable circle, aiming at the reuse of all raw materials and their waste”.

100% made in Puglia

“Our beer is “artisanal made in Puglia”, that is to say that the region recognizes that the product has at least 97 percent Apulian raw materials. We have 100 percent of them. The barley is both grown and malted in the province of Foggia, Lucera, while the hops in Martina Franca, which is quite rare in Italy.
As part of the project “Birrificio nel Carcere di Taranto by Birra Pugliese”, we produce Birra Puccia, a pale Ale with 4.7° of alcohol and a savory note that comes from the salt in the bread. The goal is to redescover local traditions an, above all, fight waste. That bread has a special aroma and flavor, which tells the story of the tradition of the area of Taranto, and allows us to carry out a circular economy project against food waste.

We haven’t invented anything though, the barley beer of the ancient Egyptians was already green, as the millet beer of the African tribes, the rice wines of Asia, the chicha made from corn by the American Indians. In Russia, since the Middle Ages, people have been drinking beer from rye bread. Nothing new then, but a return to the origins. Our Puccia Beer is an unfiltered craft beer, with the yeasts giving it its unique flavor and high vitamin B content. The result is a slightly sweet drink, with salty notes that stand out with a finish of bread zest. It is all made by inmates who are learning a trade in a prison house. One day, it would be nice to call it home of the trades.”

The new Italian Beers, beetween circularity of raw materials and social sostenibility

As never before, Italian craft beer is now enriched with new meanings that go beyond the concept of a simple beverage, encompassing the circularity of raw materials, the territoriality of flavors, and social sostenibility. Who would have thought about it? Today, even a mug of beer, if carefully chosen, can make the world a better place.


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