I'm working on a beer dinner menu coming up in about 3 weeks. I'd like to do the bread for the dinner in-house and incorpoate beer into it somehow. See http://www.leinie.com for the beers we'll be working with. The exec said he'd like to do a sourdough. Thoughts?
The yeast in most beers is filtered out before bottling (it's dead, annyways). It'd be easy enough to get some brewer's yeast, though. Primarily, I'm looking to get the beer flavor. It's going to be tricky, because the hop flavor in beer becomes much more pronounced when the water in the beer cooks off; it's very bitter.
They are not interchageable, but not entirely different. The link between the two, and the reason beer is often called liquid bread, is that they are both products of fermentation. Different strains of basically the same 'species' of yeast are used in either bread or brewing.
Beer is not used commonly in breadmaking, but where it is found (chiefly in the whole-grain type) it imparts a pleasant, sourish flavour and a lightness of texture. The C02 in the beer lightens the dough and promotes a faster rising. It is important to use freshly open bottles – unless the recipe particularly specifies that the beer should be flat.
Before proceeding on the topic of beer breads, I would like to offer a suggestion further to deltadoc’s comment re grape-sourdough starters. Here is a method for capturing yeast from the skins of wild grapes: Essentially what you do is bury wild grapes (don’t wash them!) in a couple of cups of unbleached bread flour. Cover the bowl w/ plastic wrap to exclude other yeasts, and let these components stay together overnight. The following morning, remove the grapes and stir in 2 cups of lukewarm water. Cover the bowl w/ a clean cloth and when the surface begins to look dry, give it a stir. It should begin to show signs of life (small surface bubbles appearing) w/in a day or two. When this happens, let the yeast continue to feed & grow for several days, giving it a daily stir. When it emanates a yeasty & sour aroma, put it in a clean glass jar and refrigerate until you’re ready to put it to work.
I have at least a dozen recipes for beer-breads in my files. Many times I’ve baked a large pretzel-shaped loaf, and used it for Black Forest Ham/Genoa Salami/Roast Turkey Breast/Swiss Cheese, sandwiches – served, naturally, w/ beer! Ales are good choices for using in breads; I've used a variety of beers, including French Kronenburg, German Bitburger, and Beamish Irish Ale from Ireland, and several beers from England.
One 12-oz bottle of beer
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2 Tbsp EACH brown sugar & molasses
1 Tbsp Red Star active dried yeast
2 fl oz tepid water
1 fl oz vegetable oil
1 cup dark rye flour
3 cups bread flour
Glazed w/ egg wash and sprinkled w/ kosher salt after twisting & shaping the 3½-foot rope of dough into a pretzel.