dedicated to fermentation of beer & bread

Fast & Dirty Sours Batch 2: Sourdough Starter

Its no joke that I love bread.  Making bread is like brewing, however the process is much simpler.  I often will make bread on brew days just to complicate my life a little more.  With bread turning around such great flavors in a short amount of time, I thought I would try putting some of my bread yeast (sourdough starter) in to help sour my beer.

I bake most of my bread using an immature sourdough starter the methods Chad Robertson outlined in Tartine Bread.  I’ve found that letting the bread dough sit out longer (or letting the starter age longer before using) makes the bread have a much stronger “sourdough” character.  This made me want to use the sourdough starter to “cold side sour” my batch of beer, and then I’d ferment using some brettanomyces.  Interestingly enough, I soured and as the temperature fell, the beer began to ferment on its own…

/ Batch 2:  Sourdough Starter\

This batch was made using the F&D standard malt bill described in the Batch 1 post , 60% Pilsner and 40% Malted Wheat.  It was brewed on my stovetop brew in a bag (BIAB) system I’ve been using during the winter months.  Nothing really special about how this brew happened.  I added 3 oz of aged hops in a hop bag for the entire portion of the boil.

I used my Anova Immersion Sous Vide to keep the temperature at a constant 100F.  I put in a tablespoon of Lactic Acid (88%) to lower the pH below 4.5, and introduced some of my sourdough starter (approx 1/4 cup) into the beer and let it sit.  I monitored the pH until it was 3.5.  I then turned off the Sous Vide and let it cool to room temperature (70F).


Interestingly enough, I came back the next morning to find a thick krausen on the beer and the airlock bubbling frantically!  With all this activity, I decided to let it take its course and ferment out.  I let it continue for the next month and a half before bottling and quick carbing using my CarbaCap.

Tasting Notes:

1 week in: Lightly sour.  Strong “bready” notes, for lack of a better word.  Some residual flour flavors.  Light fruitiness.

One Month:

Appearance is hazy.  No head, although could be that it wasn’t carbed as much as I should have.  I did not fine this batch.

Aroma is light sour, some bread notes, some fruitiness.  Not much else.

Mouthfeel is medium.  Finish is medium dry.

Taste is okay.  It is lacking in the complexity I thought it would have.  Sourness is multi-dimensional, but is not as strong as I’d like.  Some residual sweetness lingers for a brief moment, then is replaced by what I fear is butyric acid (despite my purging O2 out of the fermenter).  I’ll let you google how delicious that one can be; search terms: butyric, vomit, bile, or rancid cheese.

Too bad a shallow depth of field doesn't help beer taste better.

Too bad a shallow depth of field doesn’t help beer taste better.

Despite the butryic notes, I think there is some potential for souring using bread starter, but I’m not convinced they’re any better than using a pure pitch of lactobacillus.  The ‘other’ (read: Main) problem with sourdough starter is the lack of sanitation.  The starter is fed weekly from a sack of flour in my pantry and open to the air for fermentation.  While this sounds romantically like a mini-bread coolship, the possibility of contamination is high.  Check this one off the box.  Next up, yogurt.


  1. Good to see these experiments. Keep it up! It sounds like adding the sourdough starter would be safer on the other side of primary fermentation.

  2. Was looking forward to this one, shame it didnt turn out but the journey is always worth it.

  3. My experience making kvass from a local pizzeria that makes sourdough bread using his bread and culture didn’t turn out well either. Very acetic. Luckily, the pizzeria chef is a genius, and he made a killer vinaigrette out of it!

    • bhall

      April 11, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      > he made a killer vinaigrette out of it

      There has to be a market for all the “dumped” sour beer here. Artisan Beer Vinegar.

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