By Jonny Garrett
Beer bread may sound a bit mad, but the history of beer and bread are inextricably linked, and their invention shaped the way our world was built. Seriously.
Early bread and beer have exactly the same ingredients – water and cereal. The only difference was that the cereal was ground for bread. The yeast that makes bread rise and beer alcoholic entered the equation by accident; the mixtures were left open to the air, and wild yeasts on the wind got in. The yeast eats the sugars and multiplies (hence the rising) and produces alcohol. Sharp minds among you might ask why, then, isn’t bread alcoholic? That’s because it’s cooked off when it’s baked. Sadly.
When yeast was discovered 7,000 years ago, the bright sparks in Iran embarked on what is thought to be the first known biological engineering tasks – building a fermenter tank. Industrialisation was born, immediately taking the world forward hundreds of years, and eventually holding it back as endless university students began missing lectures because of sore heads.
So it’s natural that beer and bread should go together. They are, in effect, brothers. Or sisters, because history tells us they were almost certainly invented by women. So we won’t hear any of the rubbish about beer being for men.
The beer bread recipes
As with all beer recipes, you’ve got to begin with the beer and build up – after all, great food starts with great ingredients. There are two choices with bread; a nice malty bitter like Adnams’ or something super hoppy like a Brewdog Punk IPA or St Austell’s Proper Job – it’s not for everyone but you can really taste the hops.
There are two kinds of beer bread, both of which are incredibly simple. In fact, my favourite way is so simple a child could do it (disclaimer: don’t let a child do it). All you need to do is mix a 330ml bottle of beer, 375g of self-raising flour and 3 teaspoons of sugar in a bowl with a spoon. Pour it into a bread tin, top with a drizzle of melted butter and bake at 180°C/360°F for about 50 minutes, or until golden and crisp on top.
What you end up with is this gorgeous tear-and-share doughy bread loaded with sweet malty flavours and (if you use the right beer) a hoppy kick at the end. It’s best served warm and crusty, and we made it for dunking into Jim’s amazing wheat beer clams recipe.
If you’re looking for something for sandwiches, picnics and the like, try Jamie’s awesome basic bread recipe, with one very simple, very obvious substitution – beer instead of water and yeast! The key to great beer bread though is to gently warm the beer on the hob to activate the yeast, otherwise it won’t rise very well.
Both these recipes are delicious on their own, but there are little twists you can add to them to make them even more delicious. Add some wholegrain mustard to the mix, or a little mature Cheddar over the top in the oven, or cut some big slices and load it with salt beef, English mustard and sliced gherkin.
Good lord that sounds good.
Have you made any beer breads? Feel free to tell us in the comments below!