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Japan bakery, brewery battle food waste by turning bread crusts into craft beer

"Bread Weizen" and crusts cut from white bread, one of the beer's ingredients, are seen in Kitakyushu's Kokurakita Ward on July 11, 2022. (Mainichi/Emi Aoki)

KITAKYUSHU -- A brewery and a bakery here have joined forces to develop "Bread Weizen," a low-malt beer made from bread crusts trimmed from loaves used for school lunches.

    The beer, with its bready fragrance, debuted on the market on July 13. Crown Baking Co. Ltd. in Kitakyushu's Kokurakita Ward teamed up with the city's Mojiko Retro Beer Co. Ltd. to cut food loss with the new beer product.

    Crown Baking's managing director Hiroki Matsuoka, 37, looked satisfied after tasting the new brew. He explained, "The aftertaste is gentle and mild. It's only slightly bitter."

    Crown Baking delivers school lunch bread to about 120 elementary and junior high schools, or about 60% of these institutions in the Fukuoka Prefecture city of Kitakyushu. On days when schools serve bread for lunch, the company bakes 1,000 loaves at its factory and cuts the crusts from both ends -- resulting in a roughly 100-kilogram loss.

    Though some of this is used as animal feed, the rest is discarded. Matsuoka said he "felt frustrated" that the crusts were tossed out despite being perfectly edible.

    This prompted him to consult with the Mojiko Retro Beer. Malted wheat -- also used in bread -- is one of the ingredients in the brewery's top-seller "Weizen" wheat beer. It was decided that the white bread crusts, baked with Fukuoka Prefecture wheat, would make up about 10% of the Bread Weizen.

    Konosuke Minematsu in charge of brewing at Mojiko Retro Beer Co. Ltd., left, and Crown Baking Co. Ltd.'s managing director Hiroki Matsuoka, are seen respectively holding a glass and cans of "Bread Weizen" in Kitakyushu's Kokurakita Ward on July 11, 2022. (Mainichi/Emi Aoki)

    As using ingredients such as bread means the beverage is categorized as a "happoshu" beer product under Japan's liquor tax law, the brewery had to obtain a new license to manufacture low-malt beer.

    In the first preparation, about 40 kilograms of bread crusts were added during the process of saccharifying malt starch to make 1,500 liters of Bread Weizen.

    Mojiko Retro Beer head brewer Konosuke Minematsu, 46, explained, "By using bread, the wheat flavor becomes stronger than that of ordinary Weizen." He said excitedly, "We are able to contribute to cutting food loss, which is a social problem, and also expand our product range."

    The can is designed to resemble a loaf of bread. Matsuoka said, "We've broadened the range of effective use of materials. Other places across Japan must be facing a similar problem. We'd like to make efforts to reduce food loss nationwide, not just in the Kitakyushu region."

    One can (350 milliliters) costs 550 yen (about $4), and 4,000 cans will be sold. In addition to Mojiko Retro Beer Restaurant and Izutsuya Department Store's branch in the city's Kokurakita Ward, people can also purchase Bread Weizen from Mojiko Retro Beer's official website.

    (Japanese original by Emi Aoki, Kyushu News Department)

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