Once upon a time in Babylon a drink not unlike beer was made from bread. Resurrected by the Brussels Beer Project, the magic has once again produced a distinctive beer.
"500 kilos of bread for 4000 liters of beer. Each bottle (33 cl) contains the equivalent of a slice and a half.”
The Bible tells us Jesus’ first miracle was changing water into wine. Today bread is changing into beer... But this miracle is above all scientific.
In terms of waste, bread is right up there. Consumers demand fresh bread every day so supermarkets throw the day’s unsold bread in the trash - bread represents between 12 and 19% of all food waste.
The seed of an idea germinated in the mind of Rob Renaerts, who heads CODUCO, an association specializing in sustainable consumption. 7,000 years ago the Babylonian civilization made a fermented bread-based brew not unlike today’s beers.
"I knew bread could be used as the basis for fermentation," he says.
After some research, Rob Renaerts discovered that there was already a Russian beer called kvass made from old bread. However, nothing like it had ever been attempted in Belgium. Renaerts contacted an unusual brewery in the heart of Brussels, the Brussels Beer Project. Founded in 2013, it was given the task of developing "green" beers using sources of finance such as crowdfunding.
"Beer and bread require very similar cereal grains," says Antoine Dubois, R & D manager on the Brussels Beer Project.
It took a year of research to work out how to combine the cereals used in beer-making and in bread. Finally the formula was found: a handful of bread flour to two handfuls of (70%) of barley malt. The name of the new beverage was self-evident - Babylone.
Every day the Brussels Beer Project collects white and brown breads, made from wheat flour, from Delhaize supermarkets.
It is taken to the Groot Eiland workshops - a social inclusion organization - where the bread is heated at 180 degrees, dried and then ground to the consistency of flour: the source of sugar for the alcoholic fermentation of the new beer.
"500 kilos of bread, for 4000 liters beer. Each bottle (33 cl) contains the equivalent of a slice and a half," says Olivier de Brauwere, one of the founders of the Brussels Beer Project.
A tasteful beer
But what about taste? According to various tasters, Babylone has a taste that is "lightly toasted with a touch of caramel." Another specialist talks about "a long and resinous" palate.
The Brussels Beer Project hopes to produce about 600,000 bottles of Babylone a year. Which delights its leaders: "Everyone wins: supermarkets, consumers and the environment.”
Main picture: Babylone beer / Beer Project Brussels