Honey Brown Sourdough (Part One)

I’ve been thinking about beer breads a lot lately.

Since the start of the pandemic lockdown, I’ve been the family baker. Nearly one hundred and fifty loaves of sourdough of varying shape and quality have emerged from our oven in the last year.

I’ve tried numerous flour blends to mix up our sandwich loaf selection.

I’ve attempted sweet breads with sugar and cinnamon mixed in for fun and fancy.

I’ve added cheeses or herbs to create savoury side loaves to accompany larger meals.

Yet, somehow, I’ve never dabbled in diverting anything but the dry ingredients.

Bread and beer have a long, entwined history. Some have rightly noted that bread and beer are essentially equivalent food stuffs: grains, water, yeast in combination and fermented. My fitness-focused friends who avoid carbs at all costs often remind me that beer is just liquid bread, after all.

Then, does it make sense to make bread with beer as an ingredient?

My experiment began this morning as I cracked open a can of lager shortly after 8am.

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

1 can (326g) Sleeman Honey Brown Lager
38g of warm water (to set the desired hydration)
500g white bread flour
12g salt
250g of active sourdough starter

This is me experimenting, please note. As I write and post this I don’t know how it will turn out and I’ll link to Part Two (hopefully tomorrow… sourdough is a multi-day process) with some notes and photos on my success or failure.

As this is an experiment, my plan is to try a couple different loaves with a couple very different beers. Also, I’m sticking with 100% white flour (y’know, to control the variables in this deeply precise countertop research project) which I hope will let the beer flavours stand out. The first beer is a simple, medium amber lager, a honey brown from a Canadian large batch brewery. For a second attempt, I’m looking to try a darker beer, likely a Guinness to see how that affects the colour and taste.

The dough now mixed will take a couple hours to properly hydrate and develop the gluten on the counter. I’m going to lean on a shorter fermentation period because, again, I do want the beer flavours to stand out over the general “sour” flavours, so I’ll be looking to have this in the fridge for some of today and then do an overnight final proof before baking tomorrow morning.

And then, voila! Beer bread? Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion.

Or should I say.. con-glut-ion!