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May 7, 2009 02:47 PM

Beer Yeast as a Bread Starter?

I've heard of people using actual beer as an ingredient for beer bread, but has anyone used some residual yeast (I'm thinking from an unfiltered beer) from the beer bottle to get a sourdough starter going?

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  1. I don't know much about brewing, but if the residual contains viable yeast you can use it to make starter. But I doubt the bread will taste like sourdough. The most common strain of yeast used in baking is the same as what's used for most brewing and is basically domesticated yeast. Sourdough uses wild yeasts.

    It would be an interesting experiment, and the only expense would be a few cups of flour, so give it a try. But you would need to prevent wild yeast from getting into the starter so if it works you know it's the yeast in the beer dregs rather than wild yeast doing the leavening.

    1. I've cultured yeast dregs from wheat beer or whatever complements what I'm baking. It's not the same as sourdough, but is even easier to do.

      3 Replies
      1. re: trentyzan

        Awesome. I'm anxious to try it. Have you found any beer more successful than others?

        1. re: gatorfoodie

          Unfiltered wheat beers are easy, lots of visible yeast on the bottom and you can just pour off most of the beer for drinking and culture the rest. German beers are nice, and bottle-conditioned Belgian.

          1. re: trentyzan

            Ive had the best luck with Belgian Trappist ales, but British cask conditioned ales are also viable yeast fodder. If you make a 2 step poolish dough you can save some of the dough and treat it as a sourdough for future loaves.

            This yeast works very well in Bittman bread, especilly if you use the Cooks Illustrated beer modified recipe.

      2. I don't see why a beer yeast would'nt work I've brewed for years. I do know that beer yeast takes around 24 hours to get started, in beer that is, As far as sourdough, I've made many a starter using store bought yeast, it gets the sour from fermenting at room temps.

        1. I've seen a nineteenth-century recipe for bread yeast starting from hops, malt, and flour, which wouldn't be so far off from brewer's yeast.

          8 Replies
          1. re: David A. Goldfarb

            Isn't the yeast at the bottom of your beer bottle dead? Has anyone actually tried this? Either way, you could definitely use fresh beer yeast.

            1. re: jeremyn

              Bottle conditioned ale and beer is either unfiltered or filtered and then primed with yeast when bottling so that a secondary fermentation can take place in the bottle. Therefore, yes, there is plenty of visible live yeast on the bottom to be cultured for baking. It is easy, and I have done it many times with no problem.

              1. re: trentyzan

                right, but I thought the yeast died after it has run its course and eaten the priming sugar?

                1. re: jeremyn

                  It is not dead. You simply culture it and with the food and tolerable temp, it grows. Much easier for many folks to get an aged starter from an historic abbey this way than an aged sourdough starter from an established bakery.

                  1. re: trentyzan

                    That's cool. How long will it survive in the bottle?

                    1. re: jeremyn

                      If you keep feeding it and keep the temp. stable, it could survive for weeks. But it would probably become inoculated with wild yeasts and could either become more like sourdough or just turn bad by then.

                      1. re: trentyzan

                        If I buy a bottle-conditioned belgian beer at the liquor store, it's more than a few weeks old. Are we only talking about homebrew? And how would wild yeasts get into the bottle once it's corked?

                        I am so confused! But it sounds like you have the answers if I can manage to ask the right questions...

                        1. re: jeremyn

                          I thought you were asking how long a yeast you were actively culturing from an opened bottle would last, not stable yeast at the bottom of a sealed bottle. Until you open the bottle and expose the yeast, it will stay dormant indefinitely under cool, dark conditions. Homebrewers store sealed, cultured yeasts for months in the fridge and still get successful starters. Until you have it out in the open and are feeding it, you have little to worry about. Just be sure to make a clean starter well before any use, and check that out for off odors. It should smell like fresh, yeasty bread.

          2. Baker's yeast is actually a select strain of brewer's yeast and it was derived from beer. If you read Elizabeth David's book on English bread, you will see that she discusses its use, for in England and much of northern Europe, breads were often leavened with the cap of yeast that formed on beer vats. I've never tried it, but I did brew beer about forty years ago (high school biology project). My memory is that the yeast was slightly bitter. It might go quite well with whole grain breads. But for most applications, I think you would do better to buy a yeast strain that has already been selected to work best in dough.
            As for sourdough, it is a symbiosis of the yeasts that naturally occur on the grain and a lactobacillus from the environment. Sourdoughs come in many different varieties in different parts of the world. But beer yeasts will never give you a sourdough.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Father Kitchen

              I'm going to give this a shot now, I'm using an active sourdough starter, and adding the yeast from the bottom of my homebrewed pale ale. not sure if this will change anything but I'll post back in a few days w/ results.