Saturday, January 8, 2011

Here it is: Beer Sourdough!

After the recent success of the commercial yeast beer bread, I knew I had to try using beer in my sourdough. It not only works, but it works efficiently, rising and baking in a mere 6 hours start to finish. Oh, and it is delicious.

The quickest Google search ever at the end of my last post led me to this recipe from Elizabeth Yetter. Yesterday afternoon, I mixed up a half batch using half a Sam Adams I found in our basement fridge. Her original recipe calls for a whole 12 oz. beer for 2 loaves, but I decided to half it - not knowing that the outcome would be so great. It made a smallish loaf that I decided to bake in a free-formed oblong shape in my cast iron pot. Since it was smaller, I altered the temperature and baking time from my normal "bread-in-a-pot" methods. Happily, all the bread forces were working with me! When the rest of the world celebrated the end of the workweek, I was happily geeking out in my kitchen over the successes of another sourdough bread...

This particular beer is far less assertive than the IPA in my last bread, but nonetheless apparent in the rising dough. I warmed the sealed bottle in warm water like I did previously, and in 15 minutes or so, the chill was completely off. Mixing is fast, and the dough was risen and ready for it's shaping and second rise in about 3 hours. Meanwhile, I keep an eye on the dough, noting how fresh and yeasty it smelled. My Husband declared that it smelled good, like a Brewer's game, so I knew that he'd happily eat it once baked.

I let it rise on my "proofing cloth", a cotton/linen towel that is properly seasoned with flour and a bit of wheat bran. Next time, I'll probably cover it first with a damp cloth and then wrap it up with the rest of the proofing cloth - the top of the rising loaf dried out just a bit. I don't think it mattered so much, since I turned it over when it came time to bake. I also gave it three little slashes across the belly to aid in expansion.

hipstamatic beer bread.

This bread has a malty undertone once baked that doesn't read so much as "beery". It also has sweetener, something I would have liked in the beer sandwich bread. I cut back on the sugar called for, and next time, will cut back again. It was just slightly too sweet for my tastes, which tend to be on the lower side. You could easily double the recipe (using the whole beer), and make one large loaf, or two smaller ones. If making a larger loaf, you may need to adjust the baking time accordingly.

Beer Sourdough Bread (adapted from Elizabeth Yetter)
makes 1 small loaf
  • 6 oz. room temperature beer, I used Sam Adams lager
  • 1/2 c. sourdough starter (well fed)
  • 2 T. sugar (next time I'll use 1 T.)
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 2 1/2 c. bread flour
Mix beer and sourdough starter in a large bowl. The beer will foam up. Add sugar, salt and bread flour, and mix to form a soft dough. I left mine a little on the wet side, and kneaded lazily for about 3 minutes in the bowl. I also let it rise in the same bowl. Leave in a warmish room-temperature place to rise until doubled, about 2 1/2-3 hours (depending on the activity of your starter).

After 1st rise, gently knead dough for a couple minutes, and form into a loaf shape of your choosing. Leave to rise, covered in a floured towel, for 2 - 2 1/2 hours until risen (I like to poke my finger in and make sure the indentation stays rather than bounces back.) Towards the end of the 2nd rise, preheat oven to 450 f. with covered cast iron pot on the middle rack.

Bake for 20 minutes, then remove lid of cast iron pot and continue baking 10-15 more minutes until crust is a deep golden brown. Loaf should feel light for it's size, and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Leave to cool completely before slicing.

The finished, baked bread smelled intoxicating (pun, possibly intended). It was just about 10:30 when it came out of the oven, and I knew I'd wait until morning to cut into it. It was a nice site to see a fresh loaf of bread on the counter when I entered the kitchen this morning. I had a guest for breakfast, and we ate half of it with smoked cheese from the Netherlands: the sweet, malty bread perfect with the smoked, herby cheese. Upon cutting into the loaf, I noticed large holes throughout. I didn't knead the dough as directed in the original recipe before forming into a loaf. I just held it in my hands, and turned it over on itself several times... and made everyone nearby smell and touch it for good luck. I'll try kneading it longer next time and see if that will distribute the holes a bit more evenly, even though I was more than happy with my results.

Please remember, that if you are in the Milwaukee area, I have sourdough starter for you if you need it! Just drop me an email, and you can start some experiments of your own!

(the post has been yeastspotted.)


  1. That looks great! My starter died last year, but maybe I should get some going again...

  2. I am always impressed by your bread! (And everything else, for that matter). Yum.

  3. WOnderful bread! I can smell it from here!!! Well, almost! This year is the year I would like to start experimenting with a sourdough starter. I don't know much about it. Do you know of a good book to help me get some info? Also, to answer your question - 1 cup of all purpose flour plus 2 teaspoons of baking powder is the substitute for self raising flour. I hope you enjoy the cake!

  4. Marcellina,
    Thanks! There are many methods of making a sourdough starter. I started mine from grapes, but other methods are out there. If where you are doesn't have a lot of wild yeast (not sure about Australia!), there are methods that start starter with a pinch of active dry yeast.

    Though I didn't use this method outlined at Wild Yeast Blog, it looks like a good method to try. My first loaves were not as successful, but I found after my starter aged (and was fed 2-3 times daily) for a month or longer it worked better. Now, obviously, it's very strong and able to lift dough effortlessly! I hope you are able to do it, and also share your results!

  5. I am positively loving you for experimenting like this with bread... now, as soon as I shell out the cash for my cast iron bread-baking pot (which didn't come for Christmas, as I'd hoped), I'm going to be all set. Making bread like a crazy person...

  6. hi R, i love your new profile photo...very pretty. i tried a quick seeded soda bread yesterday with so-so results. i may try to perfect it and let you know. happy baking, e.

  7. marcellina said...

    Do you know of a good book to help me get some info?


  8. I just came across your site via this delicious-looking bread on Yeastspotting, and I am loving your photos, writing, and abundance of intriguing sourdough and whole grain recipes. I've been neglecting my starter in the fridge for a while, but this bread recipe (and the english muffins, brownies and pancakes) have convinced me to revivify it. Thanks, and looking forward to reading more!

  9. Wow! All of your recipes look so great! I am new to the world of bread baking, and I've decided to make experimenting with sourdough my summer project. Do you still have sourdough starter on hand to share with a fellow Milwaukee dweller?

    1. Absolutely, Megan! Email me ( and we can set something up!

  10. That looks really good! I am making my own sourdough starter and have added a bit of Chimay beer into it to see what happens. I plan on trying a loaf making technique using a crock pot and wax paper. Proofing and baking happens at same time this way according to the directions, so I will see. I live just north or Milwaukee in Jackson area (South of West Bend, North of Menominee falls)


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