It’s 8am at Rascals Brewery and the daily brewing is just getting underway.
The grains have been milled from the night before, ready to be mashed. Levels of carbonation are being checked, the yeast examined.
“We started brewing here in November of last year,” says Cathal O’Donoghue, one of the founders of Rascals Brewery, along with Emma Devlin.
They had outgrown their old premises and needed to expand. They’re now in a large warehouse in Goldenbridge Industrial Estate in Inchicore, which is part beer hall, part brewery.
Wrapped around the wooden tables on two sides are big glass windows that let customers coming in for beer and pizza see the towering steel brewery equipment.
On the tables themselves there are menus offering beers ranging from Born Sippy, a Bavarian-style lager, to Strawberry Vanilla Shake, an IPA that tastes a bit like what its called. There’s also Toast IPA and Toast APA, “crafted from fresh surplus bread”.
Across Ireland, 1.1 million tonnes of food is wasted every year, according to the Department of the Environment. Putting perfectly good – but unsold – Brennan’s bread to use in making these beers is Rascals’ way of showing there are ways to reduce this.
“We’re highlighting the fact of food waste,” says O’Donoghue, “and I think people like that idea.”
These ales made with bread were born out of a collaboration with Yorkshire-based brewery Toast, which has a special interest in food sustainability.
Toast approached Rascals, says Chris Head, global partnerships manager with Toast, because, firstly, they liked the beer they produced.
Secondly, they felt they had similar sustainable values when it came to minimizing waste and energy in the production process.
“Our founder is a guy called Tristram Stuart and he is one of the leading authorities on food waste. He is a proper food-waste guru,” Head says.
“We eat loads of sandwiches and don’t want the crusts. He thought there must be a way of making a business out of this,” he says.
The process of brewing beer using surplus bread is not altogether different from how beer is normally brewed, says O’Donoghue, of Rascals. It’s just that bread is added.
One-third of the mash would be spent bread, says O’Donoghue. “Not only bread but bread that would have been damaged in packaging, misshapen, but still good.”
“The mash is when the water mixes with the grain. It turns into a big porridge basically,” he says.
Walking into a bright, spacious room at the brewery in Inchicore, stacked with hundreds of sacks of different colours, storing different varieties of grains, O’Donoghue takes a handful of pale malts and crushes it, releasing a sweet smell.
“This is where we store all our malts,” he says.
Malts are basically grain that has been processed in some way. Lager malts are heated at a much lower temperature than the other malts used in ales, O’Donoghue says.
“Around 80 percent of each beer is pale or lager malt,” says O’Donoghue, smelling the malts in his hand. “They have a sweet taste. In the brewing process, sugar is extracted from the malt.”
Other sacks contain malts that have been caramelised. Others have malts that, heated at high temperatures, have become crystalised. Different roasting temperatures create different colours: pale pine, ruby red, or dark coffee.
These give beers their distinctive tastes and colours.
Large bags of Flahavan’s porridge oats, 25 times larger than those on supermarket shelves, are in the centre of the room. “We use oats in some of our beers to give our beers a nice creamy texture,” O’Donoghue says.
Different combinations of malts are used in each beer.
There’s a mill in the middle of the room with a silver steel funnel. Barley, oats, wheat, or rye are thrown down the funnel, ground, and piped into first out of four tanks.
For the Toast ales, the bread is broken into crumbs and thrown into the mash. Like the grain, the bread is used for its sugars that is extracted in the mash.
It wouldn’t be out-of-date bread. More likely, it’s been deemed not fit for market because it’s squashed or has ripped packaging, says O’Donoghue.
The crumbed bread is thrown into the first of the silver tanks, full of hot water. It’s in this tank that mashing happens.
At the right heat, the enzymes turn grains into sugar, and the liquid is filtered off. Leftover grain ends up as feed for farmer’s cattle, says O’Donoghue.
The sugary water is boiled further with hops to balance some of that bitterness, says O’Donoghue. It’s pumped into the third of the silver tanks, forming a whirlpool that separates the liquid from the hops.
Finally, the hot liquid is cooled and the malts are added. Yeast is thrown in and fermentation begins – transforming the sugar into alcohol.
“That takes five or seven days,” says O’Donoghue.
Then the beer is carbonated and stored for another three to four weeks, depending on the beer.
The Toast APA (5%) – one of two beers Rascals is making with bread right now – has a cloudy ruby colour and a smell of citrus. It has a hoppy flavour, and a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Instead of throwing out 200 or 300 kilos of perfectly edible bread, Rascals has turned it into ale. “We’ve done four batches so far this year. Each of these batches is 3,000 litres,” O’Donoghue says.