Business & Economy

Belgian firm creates new beverage using beer thrown away during pandemic

By Paula Boira Nacher

Brussels, Jul 5 (efe-epa).- Reusing and repurposing products, items and equipment is one of the pillars of responsible ecological behavior and a key element in caring for the environment, but it can also have economic benefits, as Sebastien Morvan, the cofounder of a beer brewery that has created an alcoholic beverage using beer that has been discarded during the coronavirus pandemic, well knows.

The beverage – dubbed “Smells Like Brussels Spirit” – was created starting with more than 1,000 liters (about 265 gallons) of beer that brewers intended to sell in Belgian capital but which ultimately could not be marketed because of the closure of bars and restaurants decreed on March 13 by the government to limit the spread of the virus.

“The idea is to give a second life to the beer that was not able to be sold instead of throwing it out, since alcoholic drinks have a much longer useful life,” Morvan told EFE, noting that his company – Brussels Beer Project – already has experience in repurposing and reusing assorted raw materials, given that years ago it became the first brewery to convert “old” bread into beer.

This time, Morvan contacted a series of pubs that, after examining their inventory, provided him with barrels of beer that had remained unopened due to the pandemic and that otherwise would have been dumped or destroyed.

The result of the project is a beverage with an alcohol content of 37.5 percent, midway between gin and “peket,” a traditional Belgian liqueur or grain alcohol similar to brandy.

The beverage is infused with the essence of the iris flower, the emblem that is on the flag of Brussels, and a taste of Javanese pepper, orange rind, cilantro and cardamom, all of which serve to give it “a very special character,” Morvan said.

“We’re very happy. We had never made a spirit, but the result has been very good,” the young Belgian entrepreneur said, admitting that during the quarantine his company has been doing “really badly.”

According to his calculations, Brussels Beer Project lost about 40 percent of its sales volume, which it was not able to recover even after creating an online “store” where customers could purchase beer for delivery.

Figures from the Belgian brewers’ federation show that over the past year the country’s 340 breweries produced 1,500 different beers, investing more than 330 million euros ($370 million).

The sector employs more than 50,000 people and contributes some 4 billion euros ($4.5 billion) to the Belgian economy, representing 1 percent of GDP.

In 2019, the sector turned out more than 25 million hectoliters (more than 660 million gallons) of beer, of which more than 70 percent was destined for export, making Belgium Europe’s biggest beer exporter for the second consecutive year, even ahead of Germany, according to figures from the Brewers of Europe Association.

“Now we’re back in the game,” said Morvan, whose company “is making more beer than ever” because people “are showing a lot of interest in local beer.”

He said that June was a “fantastic” month for businesses like his, although also for bars and restaurants, which in Belgium began reopening on June 8.

“That has been one of the positive things about the coronavirus, local people are not taking it for granted that they’ll always have their bars and restaurants, and so they’re going out more,” Morvan said.

At present, Brussels Beer Project intends to sell 1,000 bottles of Smells Like Brussels Spirit, with the beverage going on sale starting July 9 at the breweries that contributed the original beer, although Morvan is not ruling out the idea – if he gets a good public response – of turning out more of the product.


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