The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Beer Starter?

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CJRoman's picture
CJRoman

Beer Starter?

I go out of my way to bake everything with beer....and...as I look to attempt my first sourdough....I'm wondering: Can I make my starter with beer instead of water? Will there be any flavor benefit? Or...is this not desirable given the alcohol content in the starter?

phaz's picture
phaz

 search for beer bread. I know this has been done. I hope it turns out good, love the idea!

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

since it won't do anything for the starter. Besides, you usually start with a very small percentage of starlet to build the levain, so any beer flavor from the starter will be drowned out by other flavor sources. 

Paul

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

with beer!  I have made hops starter for beer bread and have made bread with beer barm but never starter with beer.

I'm thinking a hops starter made with beer, for beer bread you ate washed down with beer still wouldn't be as good as starting with a beer or two and thinking about this some more.

Happy baking

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I'm an avid home brewer and vintner, an obsessive home baker--thanks TFL--and an all-around hands-on foodie. I've added beer to lots of food recipes over the years, and have generally been disappointed. Most frequently the beer's flavor balance--primarily malted-grain and hops (sweet and bitter)--is upset leaving hop bitterness predominant, and not complementary to most meats, sea foods, vegetables or sauces. I've learned to tread carefully when cooking with beer.

Specific to beer in bread, on rare occasions I use low-hopped stouts, porters or brown ales with robust malt flavors because much of the malt flavor is lost in the alien (to beer) baking temperatures. Prior to fermentation converted grain starches (sugars dissolved in water) never experience temperatures above the boiling point, and subsequent to fermentation are, for the most part, intentionally protected against any three-digit temperatures. I don't know the chemistry, but I suspect many of the beer flavor producing chemicals are denatured (destroyed) in the baking process.

That said, I agree with thebrownman beer can lend additional subtle flavors to breads and other foods, I just suggest caution, and be prepared for disappointments.

And I agree heartily with Paul: beer will contribute nothing good to sourdough starter.

David G

ananda's picture
ananda

I know Peter Reinhart missed the point of what barm really is...but we should move on from that with better knowledge.

A barm is the traditional starter used to raise bread in Britain for many centuries and has live beer at its foundation, no?

Using a portion of beer yeast [sediment from the bottom, or froth from the top, take your pick], plus some fermenting wort, and combine some flour....there you have traditional baker's yeast...and it uses Sacchromyces strains too.

So, it's not a sourdough starter, but it is very much a bona fide starter...from beer.   And it was commonplace for centuries.

But I agree with Paul and David that the aim would be to produce a working culture from that, and not seek to promote beer flavours...that won't happen.

Best wishes

Andy

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Not to nit-pick, but the term is "barm". I agree with you: Peter Reinhart omitted this historic point. 

For the benefit of this thread most commercially distributed beers, world-wide, do not contain active yeast: most beers are pasteurized to extend shelf-life. Those beers that are "bottle-conditioned"--a term used to denote the beer's carbonation is achieved by adding a small amount of sugar to each bottle at the time of bottling, either not killing the fermenting yeast by not pasteurizing or, more likely, adding new yeast--not necessarily the same strain as the fermenting yeast--to pasteurized and/or filtered beer. One might successfully start a culture from the yeast found in the bottom of a bottle-conditioned beer, but you can be reasonably assured it won't be the yeast that forms a tight symbiosis with sourdough lacto-bacteria.

If you know a home-brewer you can ask him or her to collect active yeast for you from the top foam that forms on fermenting beer when the foaming is most vigorous. That's traditionally the "barm" bakers used before yeast's levaining role was understood and strains most efficient for bread baking were isolated.

I tried it once--for fun--with wine yeast. Here's the thread.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/17414/pain-de-champagne-no-that039s-not-misspelled

it describes how much, and from where I gathered the wine yeast, and how I fed it to develop a "starter".

One additional aside: Belgium lambic beers are fermented with both yeast and lactic acid producing bacteria. They are decidedly sour. It would be an interesting experiment to try a starter made from the lees of a lambic beer.

David G

 

 

ananda's picture
ananda

Yes David,

I cannot think why I used an alternative word for anointment instead of the correct spelling!

But if the beer in question is "live", as you explain, then I'd encourage any baker wanting to experiment with starters to use this to make a barm which could then be used as starter in future bread baking projects.

Best wishes

Andy

CJRoman's picture
CJRoman

Sounds like I should just make a regular starter....feed with water and flour....and leave the beer for any hydration added later. Thanks everyone!!!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

the alcohol off the beer and use the alcohol free beer as a sweetener with flour.  pH would drop right away.  One could also make an infusion from the hops and use that as liquid.  Some playing around is needed.  The flavour test would be after fermentation and baking. 

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Are you encouraging distilling beer? Secretly, I've always wanted to try making moonshine, but feared the rev-a-noo-ers at the gate.

Best to you,

David G

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Infusion is another name for tea.  

Distilling involves catching the evaporated alcohol and cooling it.  It also has an explosion factor.  Nope, not what I'm suggesting.  

We are talking sourdough starter cultures here.  I'm just throwing options and ideas in the wind.  

What is distilled beer called by the way?  As far as I know, nobody distills beer.  Must taste yucky or someone would be producing it.  

Mini

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Hi, Mini,

I was just trying to make a joke. Pretty lame I guess.

I've only toured one distillery--Glenturret, Sterling, Scotland. The tour-guide referred to the fermenting peat-smoked barley-malt mashed runoff as "beer", which is then distilled to make single-malt Scotch. I don't know if the term "beer" is used throughout the industry, or only tour-guides use it as a recognizable prime alchohol source understood by tourists ears. Whatever the case, the beginning of all whiskeys is a grain (or starch source) mash runoff mashed and fermented essentially the same as most beers are made.

I was in Sterling visiting the daughter of a good friend who was an American exchange student at Sterling College. Her Scot "host family" printed the labels for Glenturret Distillery; later,  upon her return from her year-long stay in Sterling, she gifted me with a bottle of their 12-year old

bottled specially for...

...David G

 

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi David,

Yes, correct that mashing grain [malted barley in Scotland, and for most beer] is the first part of the process.   But beer uses hops, which are boiled with the wort resulting from mashing.   So comparing whisky with beer is not really appropriate.

How did your personal bottle of whisky taste then...or have you still not sampled it?

Best wishes

Andy

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Hops in beer is a relatively new additive. It's estimated that homo sapiens have been brewing beer for 10,000 years. Hops became a popular additive in the Middle Ages. Ancient documents reveal we've been flavoring/augmenting generic beer with almost anything possibly edible (and sometimes not so much). My favorite is a dead rooster; I've not been able to establish whether that's with or without feathers. Furthermore, the English, Scots, and Welsh brewers resisted using hops until well into the 18th century. The Scots especially liked adding heather blossoms.

There are many books written about the history of beer. One of my favorites is Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers by Stephen Harrod Buhner. On a broader range, A History of the World in 6 Glasses, by Tom Standage codifies the world-wide influences of beer, wine, tea, coffee, rum, and Coca Cola.

My work during the 90's took me frequently to England. Each time I returned I'd bring home a liter of single-malt Scotch, each time a different brand. I've sampled all of them, including the one above, but quite a bit of each remains. They are all good. The secret (known by every Scot 3 years of age and older) is add a splash of water to your single malt, and never, never, never add ice.

David G

P.S. But, Andy, you're a native. You know all this stuff, already. Well, maybe not about the Coca Cola.

 

 

ananda's picture
ananda

I did know all that apart from the bit about Coca Cola, of course, David,

Beer, wine, tea and coffee, yes; anything else except water does little for me.   And on water; your secret for how to drink whisky [no 'e' in the Scotch spelling], is spot-on

Best wishes

Andy

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Not that I know anything about making a starter from beer. There is a series of videos on Youtube about 18th century baking. Each one introduces some new information about types of bread, or breadmaking styles, common during the 18th century. In one of them, the man in the video, James Townsend, makes a "barm" for baking by adding some yeast to a bottle of beer and letting it sit a while. In another video, he uses water to make the "barm" for the bread he's working on, and says it can be done either way, with beer, or water. A barm is not a sourdough starter, but I read once that there are some breweries where the yeast they use for brewing is a wild yeast, and the beer is subsequently called "sour beer". So, maybe there is a way to get what you're looking for. Some of them don't filter or pasteurize their "sour beer" products, so if you buy one of those, you may very well be able to use it to start a real "beer sourdough" culture! I don't know how feasible any of that is, but maybe you can research it a little, now that you know "sour beer" does exist.

ninjacito's picture
ninjacito

I tried, unsuccessfully, to make bread using an unpasteurized wheat beer in place of the water and yeast. In the end, I had to resort to using active dry yeast. You can read about it here.

 

http://breadporn.tumblr.com/post/61265788869/five-day-beer-bread

Praxeas's picture
Praxeas

I've just had some success harvesting yeast from a cloudy bottle-conditioned beer that's popular here in Australia. I've discussed it here and here.

Simonbrewerbaker's picture
Simonbrewerbaker

If you used a beer that still had a good bit of residual sugar..... food for the yeast... and that was 'bottle conditioned; ie unfiltered and unpasteurised, you could in theory incorporate food for the starter and Saccharomyces cervaise (brewers yeast), similar to what Ninjacito and Praxeas have said

 

Ive seen a post on a brewers forum where someone used their sourdough starter to ferment a batch of beer as a lambic beer (wild yeast beer)

sandydog's picture
sandydog

I have made beer bread at home as well as in a bakery selling for profit and I have found;

1. It makes little difference to the flavour irrespective as to whether you introduce the beer in the starter or the final dough, however I like the flavour best when using stout/porter type beers (Chocolate stout is particularly pleasant to my palate). I must say that I believe much of the flavour in the bread comes from the 5% of malted barley in the final dough

2. At home the price of the beer is of little importance to me as I can purchase (Slightly) out of date beers from my local shop at very reasonable rates, and the bread is for my own consumption - Or free gifts to family/friends who could not care less which beer I use.

3. Depending on which beer you use it will affect the colour and taste of your loaf, but then again you are in control of the other possible additives (White or wholemeal flour, malt extract etc) 

4. In the bakery, you need to look at the cost of manufacture as well as the efficiency of the process and I have found it cost effective to put a small volume of beer in the starter then use water in the final dough. This is most effective on cost/benefit/taste purpose as well as streamlining production process and, finally, good for marketing/branding and customer perception purposes.

5. FYI - My "Go to " recipe is "Jeffrey Hamelman's Beer Bread with Roasted Barley" at Page 141 of the 2004 version of "Bread."  You could have a bit of fun if you play around with the % of the flours as well as trying it with variance in the composition of the starter (Beer/Water? White/Wholewheat flour) 

I wish you success, and happy baking.

 

Brian