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Upcycled Beer-Waste Jeans Sell for $310 Per Pair

Beer waste is the latest food and beverage byproduct to find a new application in denim.

Shima Denim Works collaborated with fellow Japanese outfit Sapporo Breweries to upcycle the latter’s leftover malt lees, hop stems and hop leaves into sustainable fashion. Okinawa-based Shima Denim is no stranger to creating jeans from agricultural products as it has carved out a niche producing denim from sugarcane using “traditional techniques,” according to its website.

The collaboration was born from the Tokyo brewery’s desire to recoup a pandemic-era beer sales slump by putting waste to work. When it realized that brewing by-products were viable feedstock for jeans, it partnered with Shima Denim to produce Black Label Malt & Hops jeans from malt lees left behind when making its Black Label beer. These lees, which are deposits of dead yeast, are transformed into “washi,” a Japanese-style paper used to spin yarn that’s later woven into denim, making the end garment “light and breathable.”

In April, Sapporo received 1,600 applications to purchase the first 30 pairs of beer-waste jeans, which were priced at 41,800 yen ($310) on its online store.

Brands are increasingly embracing food waste that’s turned into textiles.  In 2014, Orange Fiber patented its process of transforming orange peels into fashion-forward fabric, drawing interest from Salvatore Ferragamo, H&M, and E. Marinella.

Sapporo Breweries teamed up with Shima Denim Works to transform brewing waste into denim jeans.
Sapporo x Shima Denim Sapporo

Pineapple waste has become a viable feedstock for producing a leather alternative. Piñatex, which makes fibers from pineapple leaves, has worked with high-profile brands such as Nike, and Nextevo is similarly using pineapple waste for a range of applications in apparel textiles, home goods and more. Frumat, meanwhile, converts waste from apple crops into a plant-based material with leather-like qualities.