Local Brewing Co is closing the loop on surplus fruit with a brew that’s pleasing to the palate and the conscience.
Sam Harris has always been a keen supporter of socially responsible businesses. From purchasing locally made products, to volunteering at food shelters, Sam has always given back to his local community.
So, it seemed a natural progression when, in 2019, he and friends Nick Campbell, Chris Cefala, Paddy Muston, Claudia Mitchell and Hugo Mylecharane founded a brewing company with a difference.
Melbourne-based Local Brewing Co was established as a socially responsible brewery, supporting causes that provide food for the disadvantaged. It’s now taken that one step further and blended an ale that gives new life to ‘waste’ food. The White Peach Surplus Sour is made from unused bread and fruit.
“We always knew that we wanted to be a social enterprise,” Sam says. “We also knew that we wanted to work with charities that focus on food security and minimising food waste.”
Local Brewing Co has an on-going partnership with SecondBite, an organisation which collects leftover foods from supermarkets and passes it on to those in need. For every pack and pint of Local Brewing Co beverages purchased, the company provides a meal to hungry families. Local Brewing Co has now donated more than 40,000 meals.
It was while volunteering at SecondBite, that Sam realised there was potential for new use for unused fruit.
“A lot of fruit gets rejected because it is slightly blemished, bruised or out of shape,” he says. “One of the most wasted products globally is bread. It’s estimated that 20 per cent of all bread is wasted. We had a discussion around how we could develop a product to use bread that would otherwise be wasted. We had some inspiration from overseas, where brewers were using bread as part of the grain bill for production.”
Sam says Local Brewing Co began a series of trials, testing the viability of using bread and fruit. Working with unused fruits from farms in Queensland and the Northern Territory, the brewer tested four individual flavours. The first trial took place in 2021.
The farms are suppliers to Coles, as such, the supermarket was interested in commercialising the end product.
“The farms were having conversations with Coles, which was keen to bring this to market, as it aligned with their sustainability goals,” Sam says.
Excess Coles bread and unused fruits from producers now had a closed loop solution.
Local Brewing Co’s newest release – the White Peach Surplus Sour – is made from excess white peaches supplied by grower Gaethen Cutri.
The drink is one of the latest to hit the shelves at Liquorland and First Choice Liquor Market stores, as an exclusive release.
It’s the second in the ‘Surplus Sour’ range following the release of the Watermelon Sour, which Local Brewing Co created by using unsold melons.
Sam says incorporating both ingredients into a suitable mix did present its challenges.
“The key for us was optimising the volume of bread and fruit, while ensuring the flavour of the drink remained,” he says.
“We needed to be wary about the sugar content of the drink, as well as the alcohol percentage. It needed to be an accessible drink.”
During production the bread is included in the ‘grain bill’ and the fruit added during fermentation. Excess grain from this process is also provided back to farmers to be used as cattle feed.
Sam says the initial response for the release, which has been described as a lighter mid-strength summer beverage, has been encouraging. He anticipates that more fruits will make their way into the mix.
“We have plans to expand this range to fruits such as mangos and nectarines. The idea will be to have a base style and have a revolving range featuring the seasonal fruit at the time,” he says.
“A lot of fruit is seasonal, and we want to highlight that.”
Sam says Local Brewing Co’s experience can be an example for other businesses thinking of incorporating sustainable practices.
“Consumers these days are demanding more from companies on a sustainability level, such as clean supply chains, being carbon neutral and diverting waste where possible,” he says. “There are some great companies doing some amazing work. Hopefully businesses trying to make change can inspire others to do more.”