The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hair of the Dog Bread

bluesbread's picture

Hair of the Dog Bread

Has anyone else tried reculturing the sediment at the bottom of a bottle of beer and using it in bread? Note that this won't work with industrial swill. It has to be a microbrewed beer with live yeast in it (bottle conditioned). If it has yeasty-tasting sediment at the bottom of the bottle, that's a good clue that it will work. I tried it with a bottle of one of my favorites, Doggie Claws from the Portland micro Hair of the Dog Brewing. This bottle is a 2002 vintage, so that yeast had been sleeping (and drinking fine beer) in there for five years before I disturbed it. I drank the beer first of course. Then mixed the sediment with water and flour, like recharging a sourdough starter. It roused a bit but didn't get real bubbly. I refreshed it again. And I mixed it into my dough along with the usual amount of sourdough starter (see my modified sourdough version of NYT-style no-knead bread elsewhere on this site). So I didn't trust the beer yeast to leaven the bread. But lemme tell ya, that dough rose so nicely, and the bread rose some more in the oven (cold start in cast iron, again see my other post for details). And browned and cracked so perfectly. It is just one of the most beautiful breads I've ever seen. Someone please explain to me how to post a digital pic on this site and I'll show it to you. Now, we all know that weather, flour (I used 2/3 Gold Medal Best for Bread unbleached, 1/6 whole wheat, the other 1/6 rye with a little barley flour to make the beer yeast happy), other factors, some mysterious, make one loaf better than another. But still y'all might want to experiment with beer-bottle-cultured yeast and let me know how it turns out. Cheers! bluesbread

LilDice's picture

Hrm I don't know about sourdough, but could you just find out what kind of yeast the brewer uses and use that instead of scraping the leavings?

bluesbread's picture

No. Brewers use very specific yeast cultures, their yeast is a precious and closely guarded resource. They employ chemists to examine their yeasts regularly and make sure they haven't mutated (as our sourdough cultures do when they start tasting different -- we usually don't mind that but the brewery's regular customers might not appreciate it if their beer tastes different this month).

erose33's picture

Beer yeast is not at all secret. There are laboratories that culture and sell the yeast for homebrewers. Look up your nearest homebrewing store and they'll have samples and advice for you. White Labs is one of the beer yeast labs and WYeast (pronounced y-yeast) is another one. Despite being the baking wife of an award winning homebrewer, I have yet to try baking with beer yeast... or try a sourdough sponge... which given the state of my house I suspect any wild yeast in the air would be beer yeast! I do, however, bake with the spent grain that is left over from the mashing process. It's barley that's lost about 90% of its carbohydrates, but has all the fiber and protein and vitamins intact still, so it adds fiber content to your bread for about 40 cal/cup, if you care about calories. It adds flavor and texture, too! Talk to your favorite local all-grain homebrewer (or small microbrewer) if you're curious about using some!

amberWaves's picture

As a homebrewer I applaud your experiment bluesbread!

For LilDice and others, an explaination... Culturing yeast from bottle-conditioned microbrews is far from simply "scaping the leavings" - some, myself included, consider it a high art. The signature yeasts used in commercial (micro and large) are as distinctive, and protected, as any other signature ingredient in the food world. Culturing one of these unique flavor condtributors is on par with obtaining a glob of Mother Sponge from your favorite "secret recipe" artisan sourdoughs!  With this in mind, it is important to note that some breweries actually use a different strain of yeast in bottling in order to prevent reculturing of the primary strain that is responsible for the overall yeast character of the beer.

If you want to obtain a larger starter, look into "yeast reculturing" in the homebrew or "clonebrew" communities. You basically use the last 3oz or so of beer, mix it with with a boiled and cooled malt/h2o/hop mix under high sanitation practices and give it a few days. To use this in bread, you could probably pour off the liquid carefully and just use the remainig yeast slurry for the recipe. Generally speaking beer yeast has a hard time with the starches in bread, but add enough... Definately room for more experimentation here!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

that SDBaker was mentioning from his lessons from San Fran Baking Institute.  Could this be?  Mini Oven

bluesbread's picture

Amber -- Thanks for the suggestions. And I would love you to try reculturing beer yeast for use in bread, and reporting back on your results. But I think when trying to reculture the beer yeast for bread, it'd be better to use flour and water, not malt and water. We're trying to wean this batch of yeasties off the barley and onto the wheat, right? At least that's the premise I'm following. But again, please try it your way and let us know how it works. Cheers, bluesbread

Logiwonk's picture

I applaude your experimental instincts but I don't think they will be rewarded.  Brewer's yeasts are very specific tools designed for a specific application, as is Baker's yeast.  Using one in place of the other is a bit like using a claw hammer for goldsmithing or a goldsmith's hammer for framing a house!  Modern bread yeasts are availible in several varieties and there are sourdough starters all over the place.  I'm not saying it won't work, I'm just saying you'd probably be better off with fleishman's.

As a general rule baker's yeasts are optimized to produce more CO2 (an aerobic process) whereas brewer's yeasts are tailored to produce more ethanol (an anaerobic process).  Baking with brewer's yeast might result in a less leavened bread that you'd hoped for.

However, for a simpler approach to using beer yeast in bread I would suggest going to your local brew-shop and buying some dry beer yeast packets and start with those. That way you can probably just switch yeast and keep the rest of your recipe the same.  Treat it like active dry yeast and proof it though - it's probably not as robust as instant yeast.  I strongly suggest an Ale yeast and not a Lager yeast because of the temperatures you'll be fermenting at (a lager yeast will is more likely to produce off flavors at warmer temperatures).

podwika's picture



I just recently brewed a batch of beer using a yeast from the Rogue brewery that I got from a local homebrew store.  I had a small amount of yeast left over in the package when I was done brewing the beer, so I decided to culture some of that in a mixture of flour and water with a little bit of honey.  It took a few days, but after a couple of feedings, it was active enough to bake with.  The only thing that I noticed was that it was extremely slow moving in terms of rising the dough.  Other than that, the flavor and texture were good.

Captain Foulweather's picture
Captain Foulweather

I realize this is an old thread, but I made a great culture from the dregs from a bottle of Freemont Brewing of Ballard WA that is quite active, yields a very tasty loaf. I plan on using it for a batch with high extraction flour and Calapooia Porter. Will post on new when finished.