There’s a lot of fruit appearing in beer these days, and a lot of Australian fruit that doesn’t end up being eaten. So it makes sense to bring those two things together, which is something Local Brewing Co have been doing since 2020.
The Melbourne brewers are set to launch Hazy Nectarine Pale Ale, the fourth release in their Surplus Series: a range of beers made with Coles Liquor which uses both excess fruit and leftover bread in the brewing process. The series followed on from the Fruits Of Our Labour beers Local created with Burnley Brewing, which we wrote about in Trash To Treasure).
Local Brewing co-founder Nick Campbell says they kicked off that series as a way to start conversations about food waste and sustainability in brewing only to find that, quite suddenly, it grew beyond their expectations.
“It was just a chance conversation with someone in the produce team at Coles through SecondBite,” he says.
SecondBite is Australia’s largest food rescue organisation and has relationships with retailers, food growers and other producers. Local Brewing have partnered with them since their inception in 2018, with the partnership seeing them contribute more than 220,000 meals to the organisation through beer sales.
“Suddenly I was asked, ‘Can you can you brew this to 15 to 20 times the volume of what you've been doing at the moment?', which itself presents a lot of logistical nightmares,” Nick says.
“But we love the fact they jumped behind it and were able to build awareness around food insecurity and food wastage with this product at a national level.”
As a result, each Surplus Series beer starts out with a whole lot of planning, with various teams at Coles informing the Local Brewing crew what they may have an oversupply of that can be repurposed into beer. In general terms, farmers will look to grow as much as possible to meet potential demand as well as aiming to avoid being negatively impacted by climate and weather events. Even if they avoid any impact caused by Mother Nature, fruit can end up too small, blemished or damaged to sell via major retailers and, in the case of the nectarines found in the new hazy, they had split pip, which supermarkets won’t touch due a potential choking hazard.
“It’s about working out what fruits suffer from excess in terms of supply through certain periods and then reaching out to producers and farmers,” Nick says.
“Then it’s about trying to find other alternatives for the fruit to use. Some of it is donated to the likes of SecondBite, but usually there’s an excess that you can’t find a home for, which is when it will end up in landfill.”
In the case of Surplus Series number four, the beer uses six tonnes of last season’s nectarines from Cutri Farms, in Northern Victoria, which had been frozen prior to being delivered to Local Brewing. Added to the mix were more than 900 kilograms of leftover bread from various Coles stores across Melbourne.
“From there,” Nick says, “it’s about processing that bread into smaller pieces to be able to supplement some of the grain bill in the brewing process.”
Nick Murphy, category buying manager for craft beer at Coles Liquor, says from the retailer's perspective the partnership ticks several boxes.
“It’s a massive opportunity for Coles Liquor because it meets all of our key strategic pillars,” he says.
“Sustainability is a huge focus for us, especially when it comes to food waste.”
It's not their only relationship with the craft beer industry either; they now sell some Beer Cartel mixed packs via their liquor outlets, came on as a partner for the 2022 GABS Hottest 100 Craft Beers poll, and also work with the Independent Brewers Association (IBA).
“We’re also focusing more on local, not only through our state-based ranging, but also by adding the IBA logo to all independent beers sold online so our customers can more easily support independent beers,” Nick says.
“Then on top of that, there’s our partnership with SecondBite [which goes back ten years] who collect unsold, edible food from our Coles supermarkets and re-distribute it to around 1100 charity partners across Australia."
To date, the other releases in the Surplus Series have been sours; the decision to switch to a hazy pale this time was in response to the demands of the market. Sales of hazy beers are growing significantly for Coles Liquor, while pale ales make up 40 percent of their craft beer sales.
“We really want to drive this harder in stores,” Nick Murphy says. “Obviously that supports Local Brewing, but it also supports our community partner SecondBite, who are doing great work to support Aussies doing it tough at the moment.”
In the lead-up to Christmas, the beer will also feature in their Christmas appeal to raise funds and awareness for SecondBite, who have rescued and distributed the equivalent of more than 250 million meals since 2005. According to their directory of fundraising, Emma Watts, sales of this Surplus Series beer is set to generate funding for approximately 12,000 more meals.
For the team at Local Brewing Co, it's the closed loop nature of the venture that appeals. SecondBite use excess fruit to provide meals to those in need, the fruit they can’t use can make its way into beer, and that beer in turn helps feed more people.
“It’s something we’re particularly proud of,” Nick Campbell says. “To be able to rescue food sources and be able to give back to the charity that provides the impact to those in need.”
Hazy Nectarine Pale Ale launches on September 13 at Local Brewing Co's taproom – details here.
Cans of the beer will be available through their venue and the Coles Liquor Group in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland; kegs will appear at independent venues too.