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Drink beer to help save the planet? It’s happening in NYC

EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan — A new New York company is joining with an established New York corporation in a quest to promote environmental sustainabilitys in a unique way: through beer.

It's called Toast Ale, and not only is it made from food waste, its profits fight food waste. Most important, though, it's delicious.

Perhaps the biggest reason for that is its key ingredient. Toast Ale is made from fresh, but discarded, bread.

"One-third of bread in the U.S. is thrown out," said Jason Tucker, manager and baker at Bread Alone, an artisanal bakery in Kingston, N.Y. "Being able to prevent that through this partnership is huge."

Virtually every bakery in the U.S. produces excess bread as part of its production quotas.

Bread Alone donates as much of its surplus bread as possible to churches, food pantries and other charities, but still has some left over.
A portion of that ends up getting shredded and donated to Toast Ale, which has a mission.

To "connect bakeries with surplus bread," said Toast Ale Vice President Joanna Ehrenreich, to "breweries who are looking for ingredients for the sugars that create the beer, and then nonprofits that are fighting food waste."

To make beer, food starch is first required.
Toast Ale gets that food starch, in part, from bread donated by Bread Alone Bakery. The starch forms sugars, that are eventually fermented to make beer.
Since Toast Ale was founded in New York last year, a lot of beer has been produced, and a lot of bread has been salvaged.

"We've brewed over 5,000 gallons of beer in New York," Ehrenreich said, "and we've saved more than 2,200 pounds of bread."

The Captain Lawrence Brewery, in Westchester County, brews Toast Ale.

"Beer brings a smile to everyone's face," said Scott Vaccaro, the owner and head brewer of Captain Lawrence. "If we can reduce waste bread out there, it's a beautiful thing."

To put it in perspective, his local brewery is brewing a local beer made from local bread. The whole situation is even more local, in one more tasty way.

"By putting a slice of bread into a can that was going to go into a landfill," Jeffrey Amoscato said, "is the perfect marriage to put on our menu."

The menu to which Amoscato referred is at Shake Shack, where he's a vice president.

Shake Shack is a New York City-born global company that will start carrying Toast Ale on Friday. Throughout the weekend, it will serve it in free, commemorative Shake Shack beer cozies to the first 50 customers at each of its New York City locations.

What's more, Amoscato said, "The first weekend of sales, we're going to donate all the proceeds [of Toast Ale sales] to Feedback."

Feedback is the name of a charity that's committed to reducing food waste. All of Toast Ale's profits go toward the charity.

It's a lot of good. But how good is the beer itself? According to BeerAdvocate.com, Toast Ale gets four out of five stars.

In addition to Shake Shack, the beer is available on the shelves at Fairway and Whole Foods Markets, as well as at a number of specialty restaurants.
The beer is also environmentally friendly in one more way.

"After the brewing process is over, and you've extracted all the sugars to make your beers," said Scott Vaccaro, the brewmaster, "you end up with a lot of protein and fiber, a substantial amount. We send that all to Hemlock Hill Farms, here in Westchester County,” he said.

"It's the circle of life. We feed the cows, the cows feed us, we drink a beer... and we use wasted bread to create that cycle."