Guinness Sourdough (Part Two)

Guinness stout has a very distinctive flavour. You either like it or you don’t. I do. My wife could go the rest of her days without another pint and not miss it.

This past Saturday I tried to borrow some of that distinctive flavour for a loaf of sourdough. How? Simply by replacing the tap water in my base sourdough recipe with the contents of a can of Guinness stout.

The first note of that process was simply that the dough was a lot stiffer than my regular recipe. As a bit of lucky timing, I was also short on breakfast bread, and not knowing for sure how if the taste of Guinness sourdough would accompany my morning peanut butter I simultaneously started a batch of white sandwich loafs. I have a pretty good feel for the textures, scents, and proof times of my bread recipe these days, but having an experimental loaf literally side-by-side with a control loaf was an interesting comparison.

In addition to a stiffer dough, the rise time was much longer for the Guinness loaf. Both batches spent the better part of Saturday in the fridge, and overnighted there. On Sunday morning I pulled both out at about 6 am, put the beer bread into a proofing basket and covered, and split my sandwich batch into my two loaf pans. By 5 pm as we were finishing off making our evening meal the sandwich loafs were clearly ready for the oven — almost too ready — and actually starting to creep over the edges of the pans. The beer loaf, on the other hand, needed more time, and I pushed the bake back to almost 9 pm (because I eventually needed to go to bed!) and I think it still could have used another hour of rise.

What is not entirely clear from the photo was that (just like the dough) the baked Guinness bread was darker and richer in colour than the white bread loaves.

And when I sampled this morning my take was actually… meh.

The bread is okay. It’s definitely edible, but my first impression of the taste was that it was a little bitter or even carrying an undertone of burnt coffee.

The crust definitely has an after-taste that lingers. And to be clear, the bread was not burned. In fact, other than only hitting about 80% of what I’d call a good rise, it was perfectly baked and timed out of the oven. The crust was crackly, and the besides cutting through an unfortunate air bubble for my glamour shot, the crumb was not too bad either.

But there was definitely a burnt aftertaste in the crust, and (to a lesser extent) in the softer parts of the bread.

My takeaway from this was to ask myself the simple question: Given that I pay about four bucks for a can of Guinness locally, was it worth the substitution over my basically free tap-water? And sadly, even though I was very excited to try this beer bread this morning, I would have to say …no.

I think I’ll stick to this stout in liquid form for a while longer.

Guinness Sourdough (Part One)

Six months before the pandemic lockdown began, we took one of our last major family vacations. The details of that trip are best left for another day, and another post, but the point is that on a rainy afternoon in August 2019 I found myself touring the Guinness Storehouse brewery tour in Dublin, Ireland.

I’ve got a bit of Irish blood in me, so the trip was one part heritage trip and one part explore Dublin like a tourist trip. The tourist part of me drank a lot of Guinness.

I drank a pint alongside a rich Irish stew and some bread the night before my half marathon and ran one of my best times of the season.

I drank a pint sitting at the bar in Temple Bar Pub, while other tourists stood just outside the door snapping selfies in front of the famous pub.

I drank a pint atop the viewing gallery of the the storehouse tour after learning how to pour, taste, and properly drink a glass of the rich brown stout.

A year and a half later I can confidently claim I don’t go very long without a few cans of the precious brew stocked in my fridge.

So, why not bake a lof of sourdough with it?

As I write this, the following ingredients are hydrating in a bowl on my countertop:

most of 1 can (363g) Guinness Stout
500g white bread flour
12g salt
250g of active sourdough starter

Regular readers will recall that just last weekend I baked an amazing loaf of beer-based sourdough with a can of honey brown lager. The result of this amber ale taking the place of tapwater in my recipe was a rich and flavourful bread that unfortunately seemed to disappear from the counter in less than 24 hours. (I strongly suspect hungry family members.)

A week later, though I’ve only got a regular two-day weekend to work within, I’m repeating my beer bread experimenting with one of my precious cans of Guinness a much darker and richer beer than the honey brown lager from last attempt.

The mixed ingredients are slowly hydrating on the counter as I wait out my gluten-building, hours-long folding efforts, killing the time writing this post.

Compared to the honey brown bread dough last weekend, this batch is considerably darker and smells much more strongly of beer. It gives me hope for a final baked bread that has a more obvious beer flavour.

The next steps will be a long, cool rise in the fridge, a final proof for most of Sunday, and a scruptious bake on Sunday evening … before samples and bedtime.

Tune in Monday for the exciting conclusion!