Saturday, June 3

The stale bread that becomes beer

Bread and beer. / Archive

The initiative was born as a response to food waste in Spain with 1,245 million kilos of food thrown away per year

Jose A. Gonzalez

Corrosco, currusco, currusco, crustó, cuernu, kozkorro or mendrugo. The richness of Spanish is exemplified in the loaves of bread whose tips have thousands of names and which the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) defines as “the most toasted part of the bread that corresponds to the ends or the edge” or “piece of stale bread or discarded” if the meaning of mendrugo is taken into account. Precisely, that last word, “discarded”, is collected by three friends to end up in a fresh bottle of beer.

Spanish households threw away 1,245 million kilos/liters of unconsumed food in 2021, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. “We found that the biggest waste was bread,” replies Juan Cereijo, general director of Mica. “We wanted to do something with an impact on society,” he adds, and thus they managed to drink their bread in the form of beer.

The formula is nothing secret, says the person in charge of Mica, “we replace the malt with hard bread,” he says. “The rest is up to our brewmaster,” he replies with a laugh. The recipe for Señor Mendrugo, the name of this craft beer, does not differ much from the traditional ones. Hops, yeast and water, just swap that barley for the stale bread. «The substitution percentage is 45% and «it can even reach 50% but more would already be another drink other than beer», explains Cereijo.

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The beer, launched barely a year ago, has been running for 18 months and “has allowed us to recover a ton and a half of bread,” replies the creator of this idea. The project was born from the union of Cerveza Mica, Pascual Innoventures and Robin Good and in a short time the 5,500 available units that went on sale disappeared. “We recently had a group of twenty people who loved it.”

At the moment, Señor Mendrugo’s catalog is limited: “We started with a toast and, now, we are working to develop a blonde, but nothing more.” Despite this, he has liked and impacted. “We knew that something similar had been done in other parts of the world, but our plan is more ambitious,” he details. “You don’t drink an industrial beer, it’s craft beer made from stale bread,” he adds.

But the project of these three companies is not only focused on the second life of forgotten bread, but circularity reaches 100% of the business. The company’s operations center is located in Aranda de Duero (Burgos) and the suppliers are zero kilometer. “We work with a bakery that we have here next door and they are the ones that bring us the surplus,” he says. In addition, the barley they use is from crops located in Fuentenebro in Burgos, all this gives rise to a whole atmosphere of km 0.

shortage of ingredients

The future of food is one of the headaches for many researchers. The climate crisis is modifying the rainfall regime in many places on the planet and the increase in temperatures has displaced crops to cooler regions or latitudes, as is the case with many vineyards.

“I am from a town and in five years I have not been able to collect almonds,” says Cereijo. In some European countries with a long brewing tradition, such as Belgium, the Czech Republic and Germany, barley availability has fallen by more than 30% in the worst recent years. “Inflation in the cost of beer due to future climate will cause hundreds of millions of people around the world to have to give it up,” said researcher Nathan Mueller in a study on this alcoholic beverage published in Nature Plants.

A year, a Spanish citizen drinks about 50 liters of beer and that means kilos and kilos of barley, hops, yeast and many liters of water. A list of ingredients whose availability is less and whose future is up in the air.

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