The Truth About Beer Bread

We often think of beer as something icy cold to shotgun or chug on a warm day, enjoyed at a barbecue, or a drink we nurse at a bar when we're with friends watching a game. But turns out, beer can be so much more than the cheap drink that college kids rely on for good times. You may already know that beer bread is a thing, but did you know that beer is the leavening agent behind it?

In a blog post on Jamie Oliver's site, beer expert Jonny Garrett says that even in history, the alcoholic beverage and our favorite carb, i.e. bread, have plenty of things in common. In fact, they are siblings made of the same ingredients: water and cereal. The only difference is that cereal, when prepared for bread, was ground first. 

Garrett explains that yeast makes bread rise, and beer alcoholic, but this discovery could have been the result of a happy accident dating 7,000 years old. A mixture could have been left out, attracted wild yeast in the air, and pretty soon the yeast was chomping on the cereal's sugars and making alcohol. Why then, you ask, is beer bread, made with actual beer, not alcoholic? Garrett says the alcohol in the bread gets burned off as it is baking. Oh well.

Beer bread can be made with supermarket brands of beer

Garrett advises picking a beer you enjoy to make your beer bread. Most beer connoisseurs would likely agree. In his recipe for beer bread, noted food writer Mark Bittman says, "the difference could be the right beers" when it comes to producing great food (via The New York Times). Ultimately, Bittman goes with the recommendation of Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery; it's a dopplebock, which Bittman describes as "a semisweet, supermalty, high-alcohol beer whose aroma reminds you of bread baking in an oven."

But it is possible to make beer bread with lager that you've picked up at your local liquor store. Just make sure you stay away from bitter beers, and narrow your choices down to a beer that has a lighter flavor like a pilsner; a sweet, Belgian style-witbier like Hoergaarden, or a German wheat beer. 

When you go to mix up your beer bread, it's important to combine the beer and sugar as a first step. Then add the flour, a leavening agent like baking soda, and butter. Don't over-stir the batter, to avoid a gummy mixture. The versatile bread can be created as a sweet or a savory loaf (via Vinepair).