Using Beer to Turn Breadcrumbs into Dough

Craft beer is steadily gaining traction among a younger generation of drinkers, many of whom will become the fresh new faces of brewing in coming years. Andrei Smirnov and Hamish Barguss-Smith, two students studying at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, are two such recent entrants to the industry, bringing innovative thinking to the world of beer. For the pair, it was the idea of tackling food waste and child food poverty in their local area that ignited their determination to brew.

“Having both worked in a social supermarket in Nottingham [which sells surplus goods at dramatically reduced prices] we realized how much bread is being wasted in the UK—1 million loaves per day! [We] also realized how many children were living in food poverty,” explains Smirnov. He and Barguss-Smith came up with the idea of using surplus bread to brew beer in September 2019. The very next month they began implementing their concept: The Bread Brew’d Project.

Barguss-Smith says that The Bread Brew’d Project operates as a social enterprise. “This means that part of our profits are reinvested back into the business to further our social and environmental impact,” he explains. The funds plowed back into the project ensure that it can cover the costs of staying productive and continuing to help charitable causes. “The other part of our profits goes towards funding [the] redistribution of nutritious food to school breakfast clubs across Nottingham.”

Photo courtesy of the University of Nottingham

Foodprint, the organization that the project has partnered with, runs a broad redistribution network delivering surplus food to homeless shelters, food banks, charities, and school breakfast clubs in greater Nottingham. Since December 2017, it has been able to deliver nearly 22,000 pounds of food to those in need. Farah Ravat, head of business operations, explains that Foodprint has been able to reach more people, nearly 8,000 local children in fact, thanks to the Bread Brew’d team.

“Support from them means we are able to have that additional revenue stream that enables us to reinvest more into our business and also helps provide us with the means to distribute more supplies to our community—specifically to school children,” Ravat says.

Mere months from the conception of the idea, Smirnov and Barguss-Smith are undoubtedly making a meaningful impact in the community. It’s a reality that couldn’t have been realized without help from Nottingham’s Magpie Brewery, which provided the brewing resources.

For Bob Doublas, co-founder of Magpie, helping The Bread Brew’d Project was immediately appealing. “We share quite a number of their core values, not least of which is an aim to reduce waste in our food system,” he says. “For example, we have always given used malt away as animal feed, and our spent hops for use as a soil improver on local [farm] allotments.” 

Working out of Magpie’s facility also enabled Smirnov and Barguss-Smith to can and bottle the project’s two beers: Bakers Pale (an easy-drinking pale ale) and Breakfast Brew (a porter made with spent coffee grounds from local coffee houses in addition to upcycled bread). This helped the pair reach a wider network of customers, via bottle shops, supermarkets, and even festivals before coronavirus made large gatherings unsafe. These sales channels all help to generate even more funds to help Foodprint. 

The Bread Brew’d Project has produced 72 hectoliters (roughly 61 US barrels) of beer to date, and the team is excited about continuing to create more innovative beers. “Our future plans are to continue brewing more variants of beer using a variety of surplus foods,” says Barguss-Smith.


Hollie Stephens is a freelance writer originally from the UK who currently lives in New Mexico. She blogs about beer, homebrewing, and travel at globehops.beer.

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