Brewers in high spirits

A Dunedin distillery is celebrating having diverted a total of 10 tonnes of bread and bakery waste from landfill to make its spirits since opening.

But it is now hoping it can top this three-year effort within the span of just a year.

Dunedin Craft Distillers — the brewers behind Dunedin Dry Gin, Bay Gin and Cacao Vodka — celebrated the milestone at its Roberts St distillery yesterday by bestowing a dozen commemorative T-shirts to staff, or the "10 Tonne Brewers Club", who had helped stir their way past the 10-tonne total.

Co-founder Jenny McDonald said the milestone was "a small step, but one we thought worth celebrating".

"It’s a big ask to get people to stir that pot.

"It’s hard work, it’s hot work and it’s sticky work."

The distillery was the first in the country to produce spirits using upcycled bread and bakery waste, Ms McDonald said.

It produced all its own alcohol, as opposed to buying and re-distilling industrially produced ethanol, which started "right from scratch" from surplus bread and bakery products that would otherwise end up in landfill.

Ms McDonald said there was no shortage of bread waste in Dunedin and estimated between 70 and 80 tonnes ended up in landfill each year.

Their production began in a test kitchen in late 2020, during which they could only produce in 8kg batches, she said.

Dunedin Craft Distillers co-founder Sue Stockwell wrings water from bread as staff (from left) Su...
Dunedin Craft Distillers co-founder Sue Stockwell wrings water from bread as staff (from left) Su White, Brendan Bransgrove, fellow co-founder Jenny McDonald, Isabel Laing, Tim Davis, Bastian Gallo and Peter Stockwell celebrate saving 10 tonnes of bread and bakery waste from going to landfill. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY

But after three years of scaling up production bit by bit they were now processing 200kg batches per week, she said.

"To go from 8kg at a time to 200kg — that’s quite an achievement."

Now the distillery is hoping to upscale production further.

Ms McDonald said they cooked their bread in a 250-litre pot that had been "very kindly loaned" to them by Emerson’s Brewery founder Richard Emerson, and in the next couple of months planned to scale up to a 1000-litre pot after returning it.

Once this new pot was up and running, she hoped the business could save about 18 tonnes of bread annually, which could make an impact on at least a third of bread waste currently occurring in the city, Ms McDonald said.

But just as they had grown the business, Ms McDonald said they would take this journey one step at a time.

"We want to keep doing it and keep going because we just don’t want to see resources going to waste."