Sour Ale Sourdough (Starter & Bread Recipe)

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If you close your eyes, and take a second, you can put the taste of sourdough bread side-by-side with a sour ale. The flavor is liquid sourdough, the notes are so similar, and there is a good reason for that: it’s the same process.

Sourdough bakers and sour ale makers are cultivating the same thing: a wild yeast strain, as well as a wild bacteria called lactobacilli. Sourdough bread tastes sour because of the same two things that make sour ale taste that way.  When combined, those two microscopic beasts team up to leaven your bread, ferment your beer, while bringing you that beautiful tang (*Not all sour ales contain lactobacilli, but plenty do).

Because of this, making your sourdough starter with a liquid that a master brewer already spent weeks ensuring contained both a wild yeast strain AND lactobacilli puts you ahead of the game. Water is fine, but a sour ale is like water with superpowers.

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Things to keep in mind:

  • The warmer the room, the quicker the starter will start. If you have a cold house, plan on the starter and the dough, taking much longer.
  • Avoid the temptation to clean the crock between feedings. Soap kills bacteria which is what you are trying to cultivate.
  • If you want a more sour starter, feed less often (once you get to twice a day feedings, just feed once a day for a few days).
  • Starting with a whole wheat or rye flour will give you a better likelihood of finding wild yeast as its less processed than all-purpose flour. Once you start, you can switch to all-purpose flour.
  • If your mature starter is looking weak, try a few feedings with a sour ale instead of water.
  • Adding a few tablespoons of starter to a regular bread recipe (along with all the rest of the ingredients including the commercial yeast), will help it rise higher and faster and give it a nice flavor.

 

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I used Trinity Brewing, 7 Day Golden Sour 

Sour Ale Sourdough Starter Recipe 

Step one:

Combine 1 cup (120g) flour (whole wheat flour works best to start), and ½ cup (4oz) sour ale that has both lactobacilli and Brettanomyces (ask at your local bottle shop, a beer like this should be easy to find) in a glass, ceramic, or clay crock. Stir until all the flour has been moistened. Cover loosely with a lid or plastic wrap (not airtight, you want some air going into the crock) and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours. (Cover the remaining beer and allow to sit at room temperature for your next two steps).

 

Step two:

After 24 hours stir the mixture, remove all but ½ cup (4 oz) discarding the rest. Add 1 scant cup (110g) all-purpose flour and ½ cup (4 oz) room temperature beer. Stir the 1/2 cup starter, flour, and beer, until well combined, cover, and let sit at room temperate.

 

Step three:

Continue feeding once a day as directed in step two for three days. Once 12 ounces of beer has been used, switch to warm water (filtered water works best). On the fourth day begin feeding twice a day, as directed in step two. One feeding first thing in the morning, second feeding at night.

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Step four:

Once your starter doubles in size in less than 2 hours, it’s ready to use. This could take as little as one week and as many as three weeks. Colder environments will take longer, warmer temperatures will be quicker. Once you’re ready to use the starter measure out what you need for your recipe, feed your starter, and place it in the fridge.

 

Step five:

Feed your starter once a week. It can live indefinitely, starters have been known to live for decades, and in some communities are passed down through generations. When you want to use your starter, take it out of the fridge, feed it, and allow to come to room temperature before using (about 6 hours, overnight if the room is cold). Feed it again and then put away.

 

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Check out my recipe for:

 Overnight Sourdough Beer Waffles

Sourdough Fried Chicken

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sour Ale Sourdough Bread

Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients

    Step one:
  • ¼ cup (2oz) sour ale starter (recipe listed above)
  • ½ cup (60g) flour
  • ½ cup (110mL) water
  • Step two:
  • 2 cup (240g) flour
  • ½ cup (110mL) room temperature beer (sour ale or wheat beer),
  • 1 teaspoon (6g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (6g) kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon (6g) coarse salt

Instructions

  1. Add ¼ cup room temperature starter, ½ cup flour, and ½ warm water to a small bowl. Stir to combine. Cover loosely and leave on the counter for 6 hours or up to overnight.
  2. Add the remaining flour, ½ cup room temperature beer, and 1 teaspoon sugar to the bowl. Stir until combined.
  3. Add the dough to a well floured surface, kneading until the dough is no longer sticky and very elastic, about 20 minutes (this can be done in phases). Towards the end of kneading, add in the kosher salt (salt is very important for flavor but can impede the yeast so it’s best to add it last).
  4. Oil the inside of a large bowl. Add the ball of dough to the bowl, loosely cover and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 4-6 hours.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425F.
  6. Once the dough has risen, it will probably also have spread. Gently tuck the sides under the dough to make a smaller, but higher, ball of dough, transfer to a lightly oiled Dutch oven. Using a sharp knife, slice the top of the bread in an X, sprinkle with coarse salt. Add the lid tightly onto the pot.
  7. Bake for 50 minutes or until the dough has a hard crust and is dark brown.
  8. Slice, serve warm.
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27 thoughts on “Sour Ale Sourdough (Starter & Bread Recipe)

  1. Are you allowed to give a couple brands of sour beer? I’m not sure my local store will be much help! This sounds awesome!

    1. It really depends on which area you’re in. Beer distribution varies quite a bit. Just ask for a sour ale that has lacto, that shouldn’t be too hard to find! Most breweries have it printed on the label. Odell has a bunch that should work well: Pina Agria, Zard. Your local bottle shop should be able to help 🙂

    1. I’ve never used a bread maker, I always just make it by hand. I’m not sure, but it seems possible.

  2. In recent times all my starters are beer based. I don’t know about lactobacillus, but for taste I think well of a Polish beer brand, Zywiec. They also make a Porter that has even more of what I like in a starter, but the beer—Pilsner, I think—is more drinkable.

    The essential thing I find is that before using to create a starter, the beer must be FLAT, otherwise the starter will have a tendency to bubble over and make a mess. I open the beer, cover with a scrap of paper towel rubber-banded into place, and just leave it on the counter for a few days, or up to a week. If your bread-baking is delayed, you can pop the flat beer into the fridge.

    Starter made with beer will of course, if left a day too long, will yield a layer of dark “hooch”. I don’t pour it off, just feed again and stir it in. No problem.

    The starters are all made from Bob’s Red Mill Dark Rye Flour. Fairly soon I hope to try King Arthur Pumpernickel. The breads (lately) have been made with a mixture of Dark Rye Flour and the KA Bread Flour.

    Has anyone experimented with beer and Einkorn? I’m on to that next, and am afraid that the dark/sour flavors I like may overwhelm the flavor of whole wheat einkorn. Any suggestions?

  3. Are you saying at step 3 “Continue feeding once a day as directed in step two for three days.” you are removing half of the mixture each time you do this?

    It’s not clear to me whether I’m supposed to be discarding half of the mixture every day until it doubles in size, or just keep adding flour and making the mixture larger. Clarification appreciated!

    1. It can be but it doesn’t have to be. I like to add it to the oven as it preheats but often people are too afraid to do that because of the risk of burning themselves.

  4. How do I make a loaf that is less airy w/out all the big bubbles and a softer crust? I am looking for a consistency of store bought sandwich bread rather than artisanal loaves w/ giant air bubbles and super crunchy crust.

  5. Once it’s “ready” in step 4 measure out what you need for your recipe, feed your starter and place in the fridge. How much do you feed your starter?
    For instance, If I take out 1/4 cup of starter do I add 1/4 cup of flour to feed it with a bit of water? Thank you!

  6. Can this be baked in another vessel other than a dutch oven? Such as possibly that used for french bread loaf baking? I don’t know if this is specifically so that the moisture stays in or not. Thanks!

  7. Hello Jackie,
    Thanks for writing and posting this with lots of details and tips. Two questions:

    1. For Step two of making the starter it says to remove all but ½ cup (2 oz) and discard the rest. Did you mean 1/4 cup (2 oz) or 1/2 cup (4 oz)?

    2. Would bottle conditioned beer be left with only dead yeast and thereby less super powers?

    blessings,

    1. Great questions! You are correct, leave about 4oz in when you feed. You don’t need to be super precise when you measure, it’s pretty forgiving and I don’t measure a tall anymore. You can feed with any beer and it will work fine. I like to use a sour ale because it already has the bacteria and yeast that I’m trying to cultivate. But if you don’t have a brett/lacto beer, then any beer will work!

  8. Just made this bread, but with my regular sourdough starter since that’s what I have. It is DELICIOUS!

  9. I just ordered a pitch of Roselare Belgian Sour Blend from my local home-brew shop, it has 125 ml of liquid ale yeast, 2 brettanomyces strains lactobacillus and a pedi-coccus culture. This is a 5 gallon batch pitch when brewing. Do you think it would be overkill to put it all in. I’m leaning towards “The more the merrier”.

      1. The starter.
        I must say it’s looking great after 24 hours so I guess I was just a bit unsure as it’s my first time!

        1. I totally get that! Don’t be surprised if the activity slows a bit around day 2 or 3, that’s totally normal! But after a week you should be seeing a lot of air bubbles and a starter that doubles in size in a few hours.

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