Youngsters usually just drink beer. Some produces it, often for pleasure, adhering to the home brewing trend. This particular group of kids also decided to produce it, but giving life to a project that involves some important Milan food businesses. And we’re not talking of any old lager with a hip label. Ibrida is serious: it reuses stale bread scraps from the best bakeries in Milan, from Le Polveri to Davide Longoni, proving that anti-waste solutions can be very pleasant. But let’s get to the point: the creators of the recycling-friendly beer are four design students from the Politecnico di Milano specialised in different fields: Akanksha Gupta focuses on architecture and digital strategy, Elisa Pirola focuses on graphics and creative contents, Francesca De Bernardinis manages public relations and Simone Piuri is the commercial mind of the project. A nice mix of talent and resourcefulness.
How is Ibrida beer born?
The idea is not completely new (we already featured a beer made with bread patented by a Belgian factory in 2016), but in Italy it is the first time that this method has been applied to artisanal brewing. It all started two years ago, when the young team took up the challenge launched by a university master class in Product Service System Design. The target was creating a sustainable development startup from scratch. Fortunately, the project went beyond the boundaries of the Politecnico, winning an international competition that allowed the students to realise their creative recycling plan.
“We didn’t precisely start in a garage, but still in a homemade workshop,” they told us. “Initially, to delve into the world of beer, we relied on a homebrewer, who we asked to prototype a recipe based on the type of beverage we had in mind. Then came the collaboration with an artisan company, Birrificio La Ribalta brewery in Bovisa, the district of Milan where we started collecting unsold bread from local bakeries. The first beer we were made is actually called Ibrida x Bovisa.”
But the Bovisa district was only a starting point. The kids, in fact, focussed on a “win-win model,” which consists of a mutual exchange with intermediaries: since each collaborator gives and receives visibility, the initiative’s fame soon spread throughout the Lombardy capital. The buzz reached Davide Longoni: “We met him at an event on baking organised by Talent Garden, a workspace for creative start-ups, thanks to a common contact,” they explained. “He was very impressed with our idea and suggested that we start working together to develop a specific beer with his bread. That’s how the limited edition Ibrida x Chiaravalle was born, a Porter with a very special aftertaste of roasted coffee. We are talking about a dark beer with a medium-low alcohol content, which is made from bread with Chiaravalle rye of the Longoni Bakery.” Then there is a Pale Ale based on miccone, the typical bread of the Pavese peasant culture baked by the namesake bakery in Via del Torchio. A beer with an intense gold colour, which offers all the genuinene taste of the traditional Miccone loaf: “The starting product makes it quite drinkable, with a pleasant hoppy flavour, which leaves room for bitterness and savoury on the finish.” A Pils is also in the works, to expand the line and propose new tastes to customers.
Production: this is how to make beer with bread
At this point, asking is legitimate: how can bread be included in the ingredient list of a beer? “We replace 30% of the malt of the traditional recipe with dry bread,” clarify the Ibrida creators. “From the scraps of the bakeries we obtain smaller pieces which are ground together with the other grains; then water and hops are added to start the normal fermentation process.” Innovation, therefore, lies in the first phase of the process, which in any case greatly affects the final result: “By using various types of bread, we can produce extremely different beers. Not only that: these are original beverages, because the raw material lends a good flavour.”
Of course, the quality of the bread – very high, in this case – plays an important role, but it’s not the only element taken into consideration to make an excellent beer: the taste is also affected by the single recipe studied by the brewery and consumer feedback. One of the secrets of Ibrida’s success is interaction with the public: the young group, in fact, was able to create a strong bond with customers, called upon to express preferences and opinions in real time through events and social networks. “From the very beginning, we were always ready to accept suggestions: our beer must first and foremost be pleasant to drink. So, if necessary, we work to recalibrate the recipe,” they explained.
The future of Ibrida
For now sales are not lacking, to the contrary, demand is increasing: “More than just beer producers, we are social aggregators. Usually, therefore, people choose us because they share our same values, and from this point of view the project is giving us a lot of satisfaction.” From bread bars to companies, to restaurants and pubs, the retail can count on a fair amount of intermediaries. Then there is a home delivery service reserved for direct consumers – for now only in Milan – managed by the brewery’s delivery service. In the meantime, the group is starting to consider a wider scope: “We brought Ibrida to Como, Novara, Parma and some regions of central Italy, such as Le Marche. We would like to expand in the future… our dream is to create a network of bakeries and breweries across the country. This would allow us to customise the product, perhaps using local breads, strongly identifying of the place”. Meanwhile, if these are the conditions, there is all the potential to grow.
For product information: Ibrida Birra- Milan (MI) – +39 3343348746 – www.ibridabirra.com
For information about the company: Birrificio La Ribalta – 20158 Milan (MI) – Via Cevedale 3 – 3756377845 – www.birrificiolaribalta.com
by Lucia Facchini