Unsold stale bread and surplus watermelons are being used by an Australian brewer to bring back one of the world’s oldest beer styles – sour beer.
Liquor retailer and supermarket company Coles has partnered with Melbourne craft beer maker Local Brewing Co to launch a limited edition Surplus Sour Watermelon Beer, in a sustainability initiative aimed at reducing waste in stores, and on the farm.
Coles supplied 500 loaves of unsold bread to Local Brewing Co which used it as a substitute for malt, while Rombola Family Farms donated 3 tonnes of excess watermelons, which would otherwise have been used as compost on the farm.
The team at Local Brewing, including Sam Harris, Nick Campbell and Chris Cefala in the picture above, created Surplus Sour Watermelon Beer, the first of a series of fruit beers the company plans to brew over the coming year, using unsold or excess fruit from Coles or its suppliers. It will be sold through Coles’ First Choice and Coles Liquor stores across Australia.
“Our collaboration with Coles Liquor has been incredible,” said Local Brewing Co co-founder Nick Campbell. “It has allowed us to brew a genuinely sustainable beer and increase our social impact.
“We know from the release of previous sour beers that customers embrace this genuinely unique product and it’s a great way to use food that might otherwise be wasted.
“Every time we’ve released one of these sours in the past it has been a sell-out in just a few days, so we know customers love the story of transforming rescued food into an entirely new product.”
Sour beers are synonymous with Belgium, where traditional styles such as Lambic have been brewed since early in the 18th century. However, their history can be traced back as far as 4000BC, when brewing involved little more than mixing grain and water together and allowing naturally-occurring microbes to do the rest.
Local Brewing Co has been creating sour beers on a boutique scale for the past three years however its collaboration with Coles has allowed it to significantly upscale production.
Fernando Rombola, the watermelon farmer, says he has seen a significant increase in consumer interest in sustainable agriculture and reducing food waste since he started supplying Coles seven years ago.
“This is super important for us – sustainability is not just about the environment, it’s financial sustainability, it’s sustainability for our people and sustainability for the land, if we are not looking after our land, how are we going to be able to reap the rewards from it?
“For the first time in my life I had to do an ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) statement for the bank on one of our last loans, so there is a lot of interest in sustainability and it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
“If this product is successful, we’d definitely like to see this as a different stream; the more sustainable we are, the more we can grow more with fewer hectares, which is what we are always trying to do.”
Coles Liquor merchandise GM Brad Gorman said the partnership with Local Brewing Co aims to create at least three more exclusive fruit sour beers during the year ahead to meet both the growing demand for this style of beer and the consumer appetite for genuinely sustainable products.
“We’re already planning new exclusive sours through partnerships with seasonal fruit suppliers in the supermarket business, which will underpin the creation of an exclusive, sustainable sour beer brand that will be unique to Coles Liquor,” Gorman said.
“Sour beers are a very strong and rapidly growing segment in craft beer and we know our customers love locally made products; it’s a key element of delivering on our ambition to be the local drinks specialist.”
Local Brewing Co’s commitment to the community extends beyond the sustainability initiative of the watermelon and bread beer project. Ordinarily, the brewer contributes the equivalent of one meal from the sale of every four-pack of its beer to food rescue organisation SecondBite, which works with charities across the country to help Australians in need.
However, through this partnership with Coles Local Brewing Co is contributing the equivalent of one meal for the sale of each can of its Watermelon Sour beer – four times the usual donation.
Local Brewing Co has a long history with food-rescue group SecondBite, a partnership struck when the company was first founded to embed philanthropy into the foundation of the business.
SecondBite CEO Steve Clifford said the organisation has worked with Coles for more than 10 years to end waste and end hunger in Australia.
“The fact Local Brewing Co is able to increase its support for SecondBite through the launch of this unique sour beer is very exciting for us. We couldn’t be prouder that two of our partners have collaborated to create a product that closes the loop on food waste and provides an opportunity for customers to give back with every purchase.”