Sunday, 12 October 2014

How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter Using Beer

A low carb diet will never work in this household - there is far too much love for great rustic bread which is washed down with an incredible craft beer.

One day as my hubby was about to open a local Cascadia sour from Oregon's Breakside Brewery, it occurred to him that the beer dregs, the yeasty sediment often found at the bottom of an unfiltered and unpasteurized beer, could be used to enhance his bread making expertise. He have made many breads before with beer (such as our multi-grain beer bread) but these have always used commercial yeast - he have never walked on the wild (yeast) side before.

Some simple searching shows that many people have created sourdough starters from scratch - using the wild yeasts found both in the air and in the flour - but he didn't find anyone trying it with beer dregs. Through some careful research here's what he came up with in order to make your very own sour dough starter.

What you will need:
  • approximately 80 grams (a couple fluid ounces) of yeasty beer. Look for a beer that has a fair amount of sediment. We went with Breakside Brewery Passionfruit Sour Ale.
  • 200 grams of rye flour
  • 200 grams of white all purpose flour
  • 400 grams of water - leave to sit overnight to allow any chlorine to dissipate
  • 1 500 ml mason jar with lid
  • cheese cloth (optional)
  • kitchen scale 
The steps for creating your own sourdough starter is extremely simple, but it does require some time and patience.

This recipe uses a 50-50 rye to all purpose flour mixture to feed the sourdough starter. The rye flour assists in the development of the culture. It is easiest to mix all of the flour together in a container for use during the week. Weigh and mark the empty mason jar with its weight which will come in handy on days 2 onwards.

Day 1:

Open and enjoy your beer. Be careful though - you want to reserve as much of the yeasty dregs as possible. Pour out what you plan on drinking in one even slow pour reserving the dregs for the starter.

Day 1 - Mixed up and ready to ferment
Mix together:
  •      40g of the beer dregs
  •      40g of the flour mixture.
Ensure that all of the flour is incorporated. The mixture should be fairly stiff. Cover with either cheesecloth or a loose fitting lid and set on your counter for 24hrs.

Day 2:

After 24hrs has passed remove all but 40g of the started mixture and discard (this is where knowing your jar's empty weight comes in handy).

Add to the remaining starter 40 g of beer dregs (if you still have some, if not use 40g of water) and 40g of the flour mixture. Ensure the flour is incorporated. Cover loosely (or use cheesecloth) and set aside for another 24 hrs.

Days 3 through 5:

Small Signs of Life
Repeat the Day 2 steps each day using water in place of the beer dregs. Look for signs of life. On Day 3 his starter was bubbling, showing the telltale signs of life.

The yeasts in the starter eat the sugar in the flour and release carbon dioxide gas causing the bubbles, as a by product. Your starter should have a mild vinegar scent to it at this stage.

Days 6 through 8:

By Days 4-6 his starter was alive and well. Large bubbles appeared and the mixture expanded through the day. You are getting close now.

Well hello there

Days 8 Onwards:

Ready to bake with
If things are progressing well, by Day 8 your starter should be almost ready to bake with. It should have a faint sweet smell and more than double in size between feeding.You can test your started by dropping a small amount in a tall glass of water. If the starter floats then it is ready to make bread. If not, then continue feeding for another couple days and test again.

If you plan on making bread now your starter should be ready for the next phase (I will be posting a bread recipe using this sourdough starter soon so check back)

If you don't plan on making bread soon feed your starter (following the steps above) and instead of letting it rise immediately cover it tightly and place in your fridge. The yeast will go into hibernation mode. When you are ready to bake take the starter out of the fridge and let it warm to room temperature for 12 hrs and then proceed to feed it for a couple days (using the above method) before making bread. For my hubby this usually means taking the starter out of the fridge on Thursday morning for Saturday preparation and Sunday bake.


  1. sugar ? ! how much ? when ? mixture ?

  2. This is a sour dough, there is no need to add sugar to feed the yeast. The culturing of the yeast through feeding the sour starter is all the feed the naturally occurring yeasts need to survive. Your bread will be slightly tart in flavour verses the slightly sweet.
    A longer up front commitment, but an incredible flavour is developed.