Tuesday, March 10, 2009

sourdough blonde

(Note: Since we are in the month of Fermentuary, I thought I would keep blabbing on about some fermented drink experiments I've been up to. Now, you may be thinking: what about the bread? Well, read on.)

If I could write the sound of the most diabolical laugh you can imagine, it would go right here: ______

Then I would tell you that I made a beer with my sourdough starter. Yup, beer. Sourdough beer. Mind you, it doesn't taste sour, and there was no flour involved, but the yeast came from the starter. Sourdough can do anything.

A few months back I brewed a 1 and 1/2 gallon batch of beer and put about 1/3 of it into a sterilized glass milk bottle. (The rest of the beer went into the fruity dregs of the wild mead and became something else entirely, but I'll get there another day.) I added a few tablespoons of the clear hooch from the top of my starter. I'd read there should be plenty of yeast in this. I went for the clearest stuff, hoping to minimize adding any flour component and making it too cloudy. I shook everything rather crazily for a few minutes to aerate it, then put an airlock on the bottle and kept it in a warmish place. It bubbled gently for near a month or so, and when I finally saw no more activity, I bottled it, adding a pinch of sugar for carbonation. It was only 4 - 12 ounce bottles when all was done, of a beer that must be somewhere around 5% alcohol. It looked real promising and smelled even better.

The other day, I cracked one open. (Again, please, insert diabolical laugh here.) Oh my lord, this came from sourdough? It made me wonder. Why does this remind me of Anchor Steam? I took another sip. Not nearly as hoppy. In fact, definitely a different kind of hop. But still. I had used a pilsner base malt, in extract form, with no caramelized grains to give it that malty backbone. Basically, my recipe should not give me anything like Anchor. But still.

A few more sips later, it hit me. It was the yeast. In beer, yeast is king. Use a bad one, and it will taste like crap. (Okay, so this is a hugely subjective statement, but you get my drift.) Yeast imparts enormous flavor to a beer, and this one tastes a lot like a Cal Common should. Huh. Then I wondered. Is there a yeasty lineage between bay area sourdough and this local brewing yeast? Well, my beer tells me so. I know, not a huge stretch of the imagination there if you have ever heard about the relationship between breweries and bakeries that have existed for umpteen thousand years. But still. Could Anchor have a unique taste just like bay area sourdoughs do, and for the same reason?

Would you ever have guessed that you could brew a beer with the yeast from a sourdough starter? How about that it might actually taste good? Well, then help me out here. Got any friends with the means to start looking at individual strains of yeast? Let's talk.

Well, after I finish my beer.


K and S said...

amazed at the yeast starter! looking forward to more of your experiments :)

cookiecrumb said...

I really like that kind of thinking outside the yeast packet. Great.

Ryan said...

This is a good indication that you don't have C. milleri as the dominant yeast strain. C. milleri doesn't metabolize maltose the predominant sugar in wort. I'm interested in trying this with my starter and doing a one gallon batch.

Mimi said...

Wow. All I can say for a second is wow! You are still my hero after all of these years. You found a use for that disgusting layer of ferment on the top of the sourdough starter. Talk about recycling!!

I know nothing about beer but I'm amazed that the beer turned out so good. It sure looks yummy in the picture!

Monkey Wrangler said...

Kat: Amazing indeed! I just love the yeasty beasties.

Cookie: What packet? Or for that matter, what thinking? I can't help it sometimes and this stuff falls out of my head. Then I remember, oh yeah, this is what the blog is for.

Ryan: Cool deduction on the yeast type. I'll start looking into the main known strains and think more about the individual players. Along those lines, another wild beer (I just bottled two days ago, but has yet to be blogged about) fermented very clear looking, halfway, then took a 10 day vacation and started up again all on it's own, only to finish the job as a cloudy looking thing before finally settling out. Weird. Struck me as two distinct yeast populations doing different parts of the job. But the job got done, the beer tastes great and I can't wait for a little aging time.

Trying a batch? DO IT!!!!!!!

Then let me know huh?

Mimi: I couldn't believe it myself. And yeah, I was thinking recycling too, so thanks for taking note.

You know, a couple of times I've been this close to trying a sip of that disgusting layer because it smells beery. But once you get it near your lips, the sour part hits the nostrils and you back away. So, am I a squeamish hero then?

Mimi said...

Lol!! I've always just assumed it was poisonous so your not squemish at all.

Dave Jones said...

wow....looks good work...amazed at the yeast starter.

KK said...

Would love to know what your exact recipe is...my boyfriends Mr. Beer yeast failed and I sneakingly tossed a tablespoon of sourdough in the inactive tub. What a surprise! Its very good! Cloudy though...but tasty and as good as anything you could buy at the liq store!