In 2020 worldnews was dominated by corona and its effects on society. The beer world was hit hard with bars and brewpubs closing in large parts of the world for a long time.
But there is a darker cloud that hangs over everything: our rapidly warming earth. A lot of things that we humans do are destroying the earth: gas powered cars, flying all over when a train will do, eating too much meat, cutting down forests… I can go on for a while. If the rest of the world would live like we do here in the West, we would need three earths worth of resources.
The beer world is trying to do their part by becoming more sustainable. Solar energy on the brewery, energy sufficient equipment, better produced ingredients and distribution with electric trucks are just a few examples. The grain left over after mashing often goes to animals who will eat the still very nutritious stuff. Sometimes bakers bake bread with the grain. Anything better then throwing it away in the trash.
In the Netherlands some breweries have started interesting projects to become more sustainable. Projects that deserve more attention. Attention I want to give them in a series about people in the Dutch beer world trying to do their part. In episode 1: Pieke Brood Bier. I spoke to founder Laura Nieboer about this interesting concept.
Who are they?
Pieke Brood Bier (Pieke Bread Beer) is part of the start-up Innowastion, a company trying to ‘give waste value’. Innowastion was started by Laura Nieboer after graduating from Maastricht University. Maastricht is where they are also based. It is now a three woman team with the addition of Karlijn and Joanna.
So how do they do fight waste with beer? Laura:
“It all started early 2018 when I realized how much bread we throw away in the Netherlands. We throw away around 12 whole loaves of bread per person per year. Knowing that so many people worldwide struggle to get (good) food I felt shocked by this statistic. As bread has a short shelf life due to its high water content, there are not many things you can do with bread. I wanted to show people the potential of food ‘waste’ beyond the obvious, such as making croutons or breadcrumbs out of it. Somehow, I made the connection between bread and beer, which was the start of the Pieke Broodbier adventure.“
“A friend and the internet taught me how to brew beer at home. After testing many batches, we finally had a nice beer. Taking a bit of a risk I decided it was time to brew it commercially at a local brewery here in Maastricht. We started with a batch of 300 litres, but soon due to its almost immediate success, we scaled up to 600 litres and later to the 1000 litres batches that we currently run.“
2020 saw the release of two batches of 1000 liter. They plan to brew at least that much in 2021 with maybe one batch more. If the bars can open again soon there is more chance of this.
Whenever they brew, at nearby Fontein brewery, they collect bread that would otherwise have been thrown away. Because of the many types of bread that they pick up every batch of Pieke Brood bier is slightly different every time. But this is something they know is part of the experience and adds a little extra. The beer as it is currently can best be described as a blonde beer or a golden ale.
Where to get it
For now Pieke Broodbier is for sale in some local (Maastricht) shops, bars and restaurants. They also supply three local markets every week. These markets are a good way to have direct contact with fans and customers: “An observation I can share from interacting with people at markets is that especially older males think our beer is not dark enough for their taste haha. They generally ask us why we brew an ale and not something stronger. Overall, the reactions we get are positive especially if people realise the positive impact they are making by buying and drinking Pieke Broodbier. “
Development continues on new beers and drinks. They are this year working on a new types of beers, often in collaboration with other parties. So who knows , this year we might see a new Piekebrood beer.
But Innowastion won’t focus on beer alone. The plan is to introduce new drinks made with waste this year. This has led to a name change. It is now Pieke Drinks, Pieke Broodbier will remain the name of the beer. So keep checking their social media channels for more.
She is not far enough yet to have Innowastion be a fulltime job. When it was founded she was still working on her masters, which she got at the end of 2020. Innowastion has not attracted investors or government help yet. They did win a Maastricht Student Entrepreneur Award in 2018 and got help from a business coach to set things up. But for now it is all own money. The profit from the first batch financed the second and so Pieke Brood Bier can be made.
The dream is that in the coming years Innowastion can be full-time activity. But as with many startups, the finance will have to come first.
So whenever you are in Maastricht seek out this wonderful initiative. We all need to do our part to combat the climate crisis, and why not enjoy a beer in the process?