New Brew Blends Rocket’s Day-old Bread with Yellowbelly’s Beer Wizardry

How much more local can a local beer get?

Two downtown staples have started a collaboration to kill off food waste in good taste

Instead of throwing out their day-old bread, Rocket Bakery and Fresh Foods are walking their wares 20 paces down Water Street to Yellowbelly Brewery, where the legendary brewmaster Liam McKenna is using them in his latest seasonal beer, Brewis Hard Tack Ale. How much more local can a local beer get?

Brewis Hard Tack Ale is a lightly hopped, mild brown ale. And it takes a creative, beer-passionate genius to make a beer containing not one kind of day-old bread, but many — from sourdough and raisin bread, to white baguettes and rye.

“We’ve successfully combined the pepperiness of the rye bread with the lactic acid backnotes from the sourdough,” says McKenna. “Notes of fig, raisin, and molasses add significant depth to the character of the beer. It’s remarkable.”

McKenna admits he was wading into the unknown – using bread in brewing is a bit of a lost art. But the unknown is a territory he embraces. All of McKenna’s beers are balanced and delectable, and the challenge to work with unusual ingredients, as always, had a special appeal for the veteran brewer. (Yellowbelly has had seasonals as unpredictable as a turnip ale, and beers containing local forageables like bakeapples and stinging nettles.)

The methodology behind Brewis Hard Tack Ale “harkens back to the days of antiquity, when a primitive bread rather than barley was the main ingredient in many beers. The beer is only four percent alcohol by volume but rich in character and boasts a deep amber colour.” Light in body, McKenna says it has a notable “breadiness.”

Yellowbelly Brewery’s Craig Flynn is equally enthusiastic about the project. As a restaurant owner with twenty years in the food and drink business, he says “I have seen an enormous amount of waste. It is my biggest pet peeve. To see our great YellowBelly brewers recycle bread and create something so practical and yummy, really does put a smile on my face.  Especially if I have more than one.”

From Rocket Bakery’s perspective, the collaboration makes good business sense. “Our spent coffee grounds and eggshells are being spread on local farmers’ fields,” says co-owner Kelly Mansell. “So, being able to also give our day-old bread another life in a form that Yellowbelly and Rocket customers can enjoy is good for everyone.”

McKenna says he hopes to draw some attention to the issue of food waste and make others think about it a little more as well. As for his next adventurous seasonal, he’s currently investigating the possibilities of a beer flavoured with Labrador tea.

Brewis Hard Tack Ale is now on tap at Yellowbelly Brewery (and Rocket). A limited release of bottles will be available at the brewery and at selected local NLC stores as well. 

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