Hospitality Business Magazine

Ben Bayly – brewing a good bread!

A group of sustainably minded Auckland lads have been getting crafty with bread, breathing new life into old loaves and turning them into great beer, and more great bread.

The Citizen Collective, formed in October last year, has already successfully mastered the art of making a great ale using bread and the group is now setting its sights onto other foods that may be going to waste.

Ben Bayly (photo credit Ben Bayly/Instagram).

A chef, a brewer, a baker and a food innovator, these guys are so passionate about saving the planet that they rescue surplus food and re-work it into delicious, low-impact beer and bread. Award-winning Auckland restaurateur and chef, Ben Bayly, is a co-founder, together with food innovator Donald Shepherd. They teamed up with a great brewer, Mike Sutherland from Sawmill Brewery, and a skilled artisan baker, Andrew Fearnside from Wild Wheat.

Nothing goes to waste here. So far they’ve turned out a top Pilsner and Pale Ale and a delicious sourdough, starting out with supermarket bread that’s getting close to its use-by date as a key ingredient in brewing the beer. The beautiful hot, wet spent grain, the mash from the brewing process, is then pressed, dried and milled into a nutritious, multi spent-grain flour which is baked into sourdough. Artisan baker Andrew uses that high protein, high fibre spent-grain flour to craft this beautiful bread.

The result has been some incredibly unique flavours, says Donald.

“You can’t get that flavour in the beer or the bread anywhere else,” says Donald. “When we bake the bread we even use the pressed malty liquid from our spent grains and instead of adding water.”

Between them, Wild Wheat and Farro’s are selling some 200 Citizen loaves a week.

The Citizen collective was about to launch its first beers into pubs and brew bars the week of the first lockdown in March so Donald says they were forced to ‘pivot’, focusing instead on grocery and liquor retail.

Brewing beer from bread originated way back in Babylon nearly 7,000 years ago, so it’s not a new concept overseas, says Donald, who first became fully aware of the huge food waste in the world while working in the UK. “A third of the food we use is going to waste and there are so many nutritional benefits and reasons to re-work the food,” he says. Bread is the number one item that goes to waste with vegetables close behind here in New Zealand.

Citizen’s already working on developing a series of other new products using its spent grain, which would otherwise go to stock feed or landfill. The group’s also working on rescuing and re-working other wasted food, with vegetables top of the list. “Citizen isn’t just about bread and beer, but a collective approach between those whose values align together to upcycle and rescue food surpluses,” says Donald.

With some 280 loaves of bread saved for every batch of beer, it’s an effective way to cut waste and recycle food.