“I’d have a cold beer every day!”
Toast Ale co-founder Louisa Ziane brews a better future
The pioneering planet-saving beer brewer on regeneration, empathy, soil – and making beer from old bread with no time to waste
To change the world, you have to throw a better party
than those destroying it.
Louisa Ziane is the co-founder and chief operating officer of one of the most innovative, forward-thinking breweries in the industry. By replacing barley with surplus bread, Toast Ale uses less land, water and energy – creating planet-saving craft beer that’s the best thing since, well, you know.
Toast Ale was set up in 2015. At that time, Louisa was advising corporates on carbon footprinting and mitigation strategies, but not seeing action at the scale or pace needed. She wanted to work on solutions directly. Having met co-founder Tristram Stuart whilst she was on maternity leave, she was so inspired by the campaigner’s work tackling food waste that she began freelancing for Feedback – the charity he had founded a couple of years earlier to regenerate nature by transforming the food system.
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The idea of creating a social enterprise was sparked when Tristram told her that he’d met a brewer in Brussels who used bread and learnt that the origins of brewing involved fermenting baked grains.
Did you know that a single sandwich factory wastes a whopping 13,000 slices per day? Or that bread tops the list of most wasted food items in the UK? With bread wasted at a colossal scale in the UK – almost half is never eaten – the pair decided to create a circular economy solution to reduce waste.
“We source the heel ends of loaves that aren’t used by the sandwich industry and end-of-day surplus loaves from large bakeries,” Louisa explains. “The surplus bread replaces a quarter of the malted barley, providing starches that are broken down to fermentable sugars by malt enzymes and turned to alcohol during fermentation.”
But the pair didn’t stop there. Toast Ale also raises funds for charity, rather than shareholders, and engages drinkers in conversation about positive action. By the end of 2021, they had brewed beer using 2.6 million slices of surplus fresh bread and donated over £85,000 to charities, including Rainforest Trust UK and Soil Heroes. The first UK brewery to become a Certified B Corp, they have a uniquely collaborative approach, partnering with the bakery industry and other breweries to produce the beers.
Today their message is simple. We are in a climate emergency. One of the fastest and most equitable measures to tackle the crisis is to reduce food waste. And what better way to start a conversation than over a cheeky pint?
My World of Good is a new TOPIA series where we ask revolutionaries to imagine better. We asked the changemaker to share her ideal world.
Louisa Ziane: In My World of Good…
… people appreciate soil
There is richness of life under our feet. A teaspoon of healthy soil contains more organisms than there are humans on the planet!
For our Rise Up series, we created a range of limited edition beers using ingredients from fellow B Corp food brands. My idea was to tell the story of the impact of the food system in a bite-sized (or glug-sized) way in the lead up to COP26. As I delved into the topics deeper, I learnt about soil and it led me down a path of discovering the regenerative agriculture movement. Farmers are investing in new ways of managing the land to protect and restore health to soils – to sequester carbon, hold more water and enhance biodiversity. I want to compensate for our emissions by investing in nature-based solutions. We’ve now worked with a couple of farms in the UK and I’ve enjoyed learning more and more about soil.
… we respect Indigenous knowledge
Everyone needs to read Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. It’s a beautiful reflection on the natural world and Indigenous knowledge about the reciprocal relationship we have with plants and animals.
… Jon Alexander’s ideas will be mainstream
I recently read Citizens by Jon Alexander and find the arguments for a new model of society really compelling. It seems so instinctive that we have to move beyond the consumer mindset to be more community-led, more cooperative and collaborative.
… everyone watches all of Attenborough
We watched Green Planet as a family, and found it completely awe-inspiring. I look at plants in a completely different way now.
… and listens to Outrage & Optimism
… everyone has empathy
… we allow natural systems time to regenerate
Natural resources are finite so we need to limit what we take and keep what we have in use for as long as possible.
… we change the way we define ‘wealth’
In an ideal world, wealth would be distributed more fairly. But we also need to change the way we define wealth to include indicators of health for people and nature. I’ve always been connected to the natural world. I have children now, and feel driven to work to do what I can to protect it for them too.
… business changes
I would like my legacy to be as part of a movement that changes the perception of how business is done – that collaboration can be more powerful, and more life-enhancing – than competition.
… I’d have a cold beer every day – obviously!
And enjoy wild swimming, dancing and lounging about in the sun – as well as fresh fruits, berries and nuts for foraging. Easy access, always ripe, no worms or thorns!
… This utopia would be called… Earth
I imagine that my ideal world would mostly be wilderness – mountains, forests, meadows, rivers, etc – with small hamlets of hobbit-like houses. As for its name, I’ll stick with Earth (keeping hopeful it’s possible). It’s motto? I’ll go with Toast’s.
“To change the world, you have to throw a better party
than those destroying it.”
TOPIA Season 02: THE EGG
To tie in with S02, we asked if Toast Ale is vegan – and about its impact.
Yes, Toast Ale is vegan. The bread we use does not contain any animal products, and we use vegan finings to filter and stabilise our beer (many beers use Isinglass, a product made from the gall bladders of fish).
What action is Toast taking to reduce its footprint?
We have committed to Net Zero by 2030 and we’re working with partners to measure and reduce emissions, and compensating for our footprint by investing in regenerative agriculture practices with UK farmers. We’re also building up the number of places you can buy beer on draught so we can reduce single-use packaging. We pack into reusable steel kegs in partnership with Kegstar (many breweries use Key Kegs which are made of single-use plastic and rarely recycled).
But what about the packaging?
Like many breweries we are reliant on single-use, fully recyclable aluminium cans and glass bottles. In 2021 we looked at the carbon footprint of bottles v cans as part of our impact report and found that bottles have more than double to associated emissions. So choosing cans significantly reduces the impact of the beer you enjoy.