More and More Local Breweries Are Making Beer from Food Waste

There’s a new dry-hopped sour ale on the menu, made with the NoMad Bar’s own unused cocktail citrus and other repurposed ingredients that would have otherwise been thrown in the trash. Photo courtesy of Rethink Beer

There’s a new dry-hopped sour ale on the menu at the NoMad Bar, and its origin story is definitely worth discussing over drinks: It was made with the bar’s own unused cocktail citrus and other repurposed ingredients that would have otherwise been thrown in the trash.

The beer was created via a collaboration between the NoMad, Ridgewood-based Evil Twin Brewing, and Rethink Food NYC, a Brooklyn nonprofit on a mission to reduce food waste and food insecurity by transforming restaurant leftovers into nutritious meals for those who need them.

While a beer won’t directly feed a hungry New Yorker, founder Matt Jozwiak says projects like this one were always part of his plan and that it serves the organization’s mission perfectly via a slightly different route.

Read more: Reducing, Reusing, and Raising a Glass at Olmsted

“We can’t donate and make nutritious meals out of citrus rinds, so we have to do something else with them,” he says. “We need to use this food to raise money.” (He expects sales of the beer to raise about $10,000 for the organization.)

The project is one of many around the world, like Toast Ale, using beer to address the issue of food waste, and it’s not the only one in New York City. Great Northern Food Hall, for example, has collaborated with Brooklyn Brewery to turn their excess rye bread into beer, and Black Seed Bagels just announced that Brooklyn-based Folksbier would be replacing some of the wheat in its Berliner Weisse-style sour wheat beer with surplus bagels.

Evil Twin Brewing founder Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø says that he was excited for the opportunity to brew a mission-driven beer. To build on the idea of using the orange, lemon and lime peels that would have gone to waste, he decided to make the beer with spent grain, in the style of what’s often referred to as a “small beer,” where brewers use grains from a prior brewing process and run water over them again to extract more sugars.

Evil Twin’s Rethink Beer ended up as a citrus sour pale ale, and in addition to the NoMad, New Yorkers can find it at spots like Nowadays in Queens, Bar Sardine in Manhattan and the Greene Grape and Whole Foods in Brooklyn. It’s a limited-edition beer, though, and Jozwiak says it’s selling fast, with less than 30 of the 100 cases they started with left.

Because of that success, everyone involved is looking toward the future.

“Since the beer came out as good as it did and people seem to like it a lot, we talked to Rethink about making other versions using the same principle of a small beer,” Jarnit-Bjergsø says. For the next one they could use herbs, for instance, or use coffee grounds to make a dark beer.

Jozwiak also hopes to keep the project going and says Rethink might also find other ways to work with Evil Twin, like using their spent barley as a base for meals. Most importantly, he wants to explore more ways to repurpose all kinds of ingredients into other food and beverage products that can be sold to generate funds for Rethink’s efforts to address food insecurity across the city.

“We’re not going to stop with beer,” he says.