What Should People Do With Food Waste? Make Beer

Craft beers are getting creative

Food waste
Matt Brasier/Masterfile/Corbis

Breweries across America are trying to make their beers stand out against the competitionlobster beerbrewmaster’s beard yeast beerlaundry whitener beer and more. But the latest brew to join this fad might not just be a gimmick. It could also be good for the environment. 

Chef Mario Batali is teaming up with Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione to make an experimental beer out of food scraps, reports Cat Wolinksi for Civil Eats

Apparently the beer is inspired by “pruno,” or prison wine. Innovative prisoners make this alcoholic concoction by throwing together bread, fruit, ketchup and what ever else is available to ferment. The beer version has a more specific list of ingredients, Wolinksi writes. 

The brew is modeled after a hefeweizen—a German beer that typically has citrus-y aromas and flavors—and comes from overripe tomatoes, stale bread, Demerara sugar, grapefruit and another citrus called the Ugli fruit. A slightly more upscale version of pruno, perhaps.

At its public debut, drinkers called the drink “light, crisp, a little effervescent” and even “delicious,” Wolinkski writes.

The chef-brewer duo call their concoction “WasteNot,” which is already offered on tap at a restaurant with locations in Chicago and New York. The idea for the brew came out of chef Dan Barber’s wastED, a pop-up restaurant that created menus out of the “ignored or un-coveted,” the waste products of the food system, according to the project’s website.

Americans waste nearly one-third of the country’s food supply—discarding produce because it carries a blemish, tossing food because it isn’t quite fresh. And the U.S. is not the only country with a food waste problem.

Imperfect food that still has nutritional value can be used, however. Faced with some shameful statistics, innovators are making a point to sell the odd-looking bits of produce or make energy out of the leftovers, among other efforts. 

Excessive food waste costs money, contributes to methane emissions and takes up space in landfills. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency has called for a 50 percent reduction of the country’s food waste by 2030.

If making artisanal pruno is part of that effort, so be it.

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