Beer Bread (Yeast Leavened)

Sourdough Rye with Walnuts

Sourdough Rye with Walnuts

By Cat, Jan 2011 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Includes: 1. Yeast-Risen Beer Bread (Rye)

See also: 1. Bread Basics (Yeast-Leavened Breads); 2. Ciabatta Integrale, with Soaked Grain-Berries & Sourdough Starter; 3.  Bread & Rolls Menu

When I was living in Portland, one of my favorite lunch spots was Huber’s, a very elegant pub whose specialty was anything-turkey. They made their own bread there, a beer bread, using the beer that collected from pouring off foam from tap beer, and baking soda as leavening. The mix of beers gave wonderful flavor to their bread.

Bi-products of beer-making have long been used with sourdough breads; using beer in a yeast-risen bread gives a similar flavor and texture.

My recipe for their bread is locked in my Portland storage unit, but I recently re-discovered an old recipe from The Vegetarian Epicure Book Two, by Anna Thomas, that uses yeast as well as beer, and a sponge method. I’ve adapted that recipe, below.

Yeast-Leavened Beer Bread

This recipe is adapted from The Vegetarian Epicure Book Two, by Anna Thomas. This is a “hard-crusted, coarse-textured bread,” similar to old-world style breads currently popular from Artisan bakeries. Be sure to give it ample time to rise before baking.

It uses a sponge method which appeals to me because the sponge gives more opportunity for the moisture to work upon the whole grain (similar to presoaking or sprouting), to make the grain more digestible and nutritious. However, the original recipe uses white flour in the sponge, so the benefit is lost.

I also like the idea of using soaked grain berries (I would use spelt or Kamut instead of wheat). See also Ciabatta Integrale, with Soaked Grain-Berries & Sourdough Starter for another way to use soaked grain berries in bread.

Makes 1 large loaf. Not yet tested.


Ingredients & Equipment (1 large loaf):

Grain berries (groats)

  • ½ cup whole grain berries
  • 3 cups water

Pre-ferment (sponge)

  • 1 cup dark beer, warmed
  • 2 packages (about 2 ½ Tbsp) active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup molasses, divided
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached white flour (or whole wheat/Kamut flour)


  • 1 Tbsp Unrefined sea salt
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds, crushed in mortar & pestle, optional
  • 1 cup light rye or unbleached white flour
  • 1 ¾ – 2 cups stone-ground dark rye (whole rye) flour
  • melted butter


  • 1 or 2 large bowls
  • heavy-bottomed saucepan or steamer
  • cotton tea towel
  • baking sheet


Grain berries (groats)

  • Put the wheat berries and the water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer 2 – 3 hours, until the berries are soft and bursting open.

Pre-ferment (sponge)

  1. Combine warm beer, yeast, and 1 Tbsp of the molasses in large bowl. Let rest about 10 minutes, to proof the yeast (it will foam up).
  2. Stir in remaining molasses and whole wheat/Kamut flour. Beat vigorously (at least 100 strokes) until the mixture is very smooth. Cover with a damp towel and let rest in warm spot for about 40 – 60 minutes, to let the sponge rest. It should be bubbly and doubled in size.


  1. Stir down the sponge; sprinkle salt and crushed fennel seeds over, then mix in with wooden spoon. Gradually add the light rye/unbleached white flour, followed by the whole rye, stirring until it is too stiff to mix (or until all but ¼ – ½ cup of the whole rye flour has been added). Let rest about 5 minutes to hydrate the flour.
  2. Sprinkle some of the remaining rye flour on a flat surface and knead the dough for at least 10 minutes, working in as much of the flour as necessary to keep it from sticking.
  3. When the dough is elastic, form into a ball and put in a buttered bowl, turning it once  so that it is coated with butter all over. Cover bowl with damp towel and let rise for 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
  4. Punch down, turn out onto floured surface and flatten dough slightly. Drain cooked or steamed grain berries thoroughly, spread some on the flattened sough, fold dough over and start kneading them in. Continue flattening dough, adding more berries and kneading, until they are all incorporated into the dough.
  5. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  6. Form dough into a smooth, round ball, pinching the seams together securely, and place it, seam side down, on a buttered baking sheet. Brush loaf lightly with butter, cut a shallow cross in the top with a sharp knife, cover with damp towel, and let rise until it has nearly doubled in size.
  7. Bake in preheated 425°F oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375°F and bake another 55 – 60 minutes, or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  8. Brush again with butter and let cool. Slice and serve.


Not yet tested


  1. The Vegetarian Epicure Book Two, but Anna Thomas

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