Baking bread with beer

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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!

Classic Beer Bread

Raise your hand if beer bread was the first type of bread you learned to bake! This classic recipe, with its four simple ingredients, requires nothing more than a bowl, spoon, pan, and oven in the way of tools. Beloved of busy bakers everywhere, the bread is moist, nicely dense and chewy, perfect for toast and sandwiches.


  • 3 cups (340g) King Arthur Unbleached Self-Rising Flour
  • 1 to 4 tablespoons (14g to 50g) sugar, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons (57g) melted butter, divided*
  • 1 1/2 cups (340g) beer or plain seltzer water

*Substitute 2 tablespoons vegetable oil for the butter in the batter and omit the butter topping to make a vegan version.


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan.

Mix the flour, sugar, 3 tablespoons of the melted butter, and the beer, stirring until fairly smooth don't worry about a scattering of small lumps.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter.

Bake the bread for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted about 1/2" into the top of the loaf comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs clinging to it.

Learn more

Baking with beer

Remove the bread from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out onto a rack to cool.

Wait until the bread cools completely before slicing. Store airtight at room temperature.


This bread literally takes five minutes to prep and requires only five simple ingredients.

That&rsquos right. FIVE! That&rsquos it!

Self rising flour, salt, sugar, beer, and melted butter are all you need to make this beer bread recipe.

The sweetness of the bread complements the subtle notes of the beer, but if you aren&rsquot big on slightly sweetened breads, simply cut down the sugar to ¼ cup.

Serve this bread alongside any of your favorite soups, such as Sausage and Lentil Soup, Turkey Noodle Soup, or Stuffed Pepper Soup.

It&rsquos also amazing toasted and spread with some butter and Slow Cooker Apple Butter.

A Cream Ale Irish Soda Bread That Even Baking Novices Can Make

To the untrained and uninitiated, beer and bread hardly seem like they’d have much to do with one another. But these two products actually hold a lot more in common than one might think. To start, both beer and bread stem from three of the same major ingredients: water, grain, and yeast. Merged together, these three ingredients can produce both a fizzy, hoppy beverage—or a loaf of crusty bread.

So why not combine the two? That’s the thought process behind Lori Rice ’s cookbook “ Beer Bread ,” a culinary guide to baking bread shot through with all kinds of beer.

Beer Bread, $16.99 on Amazon

“Basic beer bread recipes have been around for a long time, in the sense of combining self-rising flour with beer and salt to create a quick bread,” Lori explains. “So now it’s cool to get into the experimentation with how beer can behave with yeast breads.”

And experiment she does. Lori has developed a host of creative recipes starring beer and flour. In “Beer Bread,” you might find yourself pulling apart rolls studded with pepperoni, mozzarella cheese―and six ounces of a pilsner. Or you’ll braid together strands of matcha dough stained green, swirled with a pale lager and finished off with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds. But the merging of bread and beer isn’t simply for the fun of it—there’s actually a change in taste and texture when beer is included in the proofing process.

“Beer contributes a multiness and a graininess, depending on what style you’re using. It complements the grains that are being used in the bread,” Lori says.

And while baking bread can often seem overwhelming to the home cook, Lori guarantees that even the greenest of cooks can make bread from her book. Many of the recipes are geared toward beginners—replete with straightforward recipes and quick breads that don’t require overnight proofing.

But Lori urges that new bread bakers shouldn’t get too caught up in the perfection and precision of baking bread. Sure, following a recipe is necessary, but bakers shouldn’t go out of their way to purchase every single bread baking tool out there or attempt to recreate the flawless loaves found in artisan bakeries. Instead, Lori suggests focusing on learning everything you can about your own baking environment and trying your hand at crafting something that tastes great.

“That environment—specifically with yeast breads—is going to influence the rising of your dough,” Lori says.

Ahead is Lori’s 101 guide to baking bread, along with a recipe for cream ale Irish soda bread, a thick, dense bread that doesn’t require yeast, but instead relies on baking soda to rise. The sweet cream ale is paired with the soda bread, punctured with raisins or currants and spiked with a hint of vanilla extract. It’s the kind of bread that a beginner is suited for: All of the ingredients are mixed together in one bowl, lightly kneaded and rolled into a ball, then tossed onto a baking sheet and baked until browned on top. It’s sweet, tangy, and filled with beer what’s not to love?

Excerpted from “Beer Bread.” Copyright 2020 by Lori Rice. Reproduced by permission of The Countryman Press. All rights reserved.

Baking Bread 101

The difficulty, ingredients needed, and time required to bake bread varies by the type of loaf you want to pull out of the oven. It’s true that baking requires a more precise measurement of ingredients and more specific tools than cooking, but this shouldn’t scare you if you feel inexperienced. Preparing breads for baking is really a simple and—for many—therapeutic and rewarding process. Once you grow familiar with the basic steps, it only gets easier from there.

The goal of this book isn’t to teach you how to bake, but to show you creative ways to do so with beer. With that in mind, it is still helpful to do a brief overview of the what and why of bread baking so that I can share some tips I’ve found useful over the years and provide some explanations regarding methods and recipes in this book.

Types of Breads in this Book

The breads and variations of breads—such as flatbreads, biscuits, and rolls—can be classified into two categories: yeast breads and quick breads. Yeast breads tend to be the scariest for beginner bakers and sometimes the most finicky for even the experienced, so let’s start by discussing why this is often the case. Then we’ll move on to quick breads. Both produce equally enjoyable results, but hopefully some basic tips and guidelines will help you decide where you want to start as you dig into these beer bread recipes.

Yeast Breads

Yeast breads require the three main ingredients of flour, yeast, and a liquid. In basic versions that liquid is water, but as you may have guessed, the liquid in our case will be beer. There are several steps in making yeast breads and each plays an important role in achieving the desired recipe results.

Mixing: When the ingredients are mixed, enzymes begin to break down starch molecules into sugars that will feed the yeast. Mixing the ingredients is the initial step in facilitating the fermentation process, when yeast produces the carbon dioxide and alcohol that contribute to the structure and flavor of your bread.

Kneading: Kneading dough, whether done by hand or with a mixer, helps to develop the proteins in the dough, called the gluten network. This network traps the air bubbles given off by the yeast to give bread strength and a desirable rise and texture.

Zulay Serrated Bread Knife, $9.99 on Amazon

I find hand-kneading meditative, but I also understand that it can be time consuming and sometimes frustrating when you are working with a stickier dough. For most yeast breads in this book, you will find the general instructions to knead the dough in an electric stand mixer for 5 minutes and then knead by hand for 3 to 4 additional minutes. Doughs that have fat added like butter or oil and sweeteners like sugar often require longer kneading times and they can sometimes be very sticky until the kneading is complete. In these cases, I often suggest doing it all in the mixer. It really doesn’t matter how you work the dough, just that the gluten is fully developed after kneading.

Rising: The rising stage for bread is also called proofing, and that is how I refer to it in this book. Once you knead a dough, it’s formed into a ball and placed in a greased bowl. It can then be covered with a cloth bowl cover, dish towel, loose lid, or even a shower cap to rest. During this proofing stage is when fermentation occurs. The yeast does its thing, producing carbon dioxide and alcohol that will create the crumb and structure of the bread. It also contributes to the aroma and flavor.

Proofing a loaf of bread is both a straightforward and a tricky step. A bread dough with healthy yeast is going to rise, but how quickly and how much is where bakers sometimes run into problems. The reason is that room temperature affects how quickly dough rises.

The ideal temperature for proofing the doughs in this book during fermentation is around 75 to 80°F, but the temperature of your room can vary. Perhaps it’s a chilly winter morning or maybe the oven has been running all day and your kitchen is warmer. I often put dough in my pantry in the winter because it provides a warm, draft-free spot, but in the summer it runs a few degrees warmer than my already-warm kitchen so it’s not a good option.

These temperature differences aren’t a problem they just mean that you have to do a bit of personal troubleshooting when baking yeast breads. Breads will take longer to rise or may rise faster than instructions in a recipe state. Many recipes also state that dough should double in size. All of these indicators should be taken as estimates. In reality some loaves only rise about 50 percent. It’s just that “until doubled in size” and “about 1 hour” have become common language in recipe writing and baking instruction.

I include these instructions in each recipe but remember that they may vary depending on the temperature of your space. Over time you will become familiar with your baking environment and what that means for a successful loaf.

Beer Bread Tip

Have I kneaded my dough long enough?

You may be asking yourself: How do I know if the gluten is fully developed? There is an easy test you can do on your dough that will tell you if it’s ready to move on to the next stage of baking. It’s commonly referred to as the Windowpane Test. Simply take a small piece of dough and use two hands to pull it apart slowly. If it stretches to nearly paper thin without tearing, it’s ready. If it tears, keep kneading. There are a few exceptions where this test doesn’t work, for example with heavily grainy doughs. Simply follow the recipe instructions for those.

A few recipes in this book are no-knead, in which case they go straight from the mixer to a bowl to rest in the refrigerator. In this case, the long fermentation time in the chilled environment, often 20-plus hours, allows the gluten to develop.

Baking: It can be difficult to tell when yeast breads are fully baked because the outer crust can look done when the interior still has a bit of time to go. Unlike quick breads, which I discuss later, you can’t stick a toothpick all the way in to check that the dough is baked. A kitchen thermometer is essential. Exact temperatures are listed in each recipe, but in general I bake yeast breads with eggs, sugar, and butter to 190°F and others to 175 to 180°F. The temperature of yeast breads will often continue to climb once they’re pulled from the oven so it’s okay to remove them when they are within about 3 degrees of the goal.

Beer Bread Tip

Did my loaf proof long enough?

A more effective way of testing your dough than using time and change in size is to test it with a finger imprint. If you gently press your finger into the dough, you want that indentation to come back slowly to about halfway as far as you pressed it in. This means the dough is ready to move on to the next step. If the imprint stays, the bread has proofed too long. If it disappears completely, as if you never pressed your finger into it, it still needs more time to proof.

After the bread dough has proofed the first time, it is shaped and set aside to proof a second time. The time of this second proof is most often shorter and it’s okay for the temperature to be a little warmer. When my kitchen is cold in the winter, I often set the shaped loaves on the preheating stove.

Cream Ale Irish Soda Bread Recipe

Historically, Irish Soda Bread was meant to be a simple recipe that could be baked every day using few ingredients. While more traditional loaves were flatter without the puffy look you commonly see today, what gives the bread a little rise without yeast is a reaction between an acid and baking soda. Traditionally, buttermilk was the source of acid, as it falls roughly between 4.5 and 5.0 on the pH scale (slightly acidic). It turns out that most beers also fall between 4.0 and 5.0, making it an easy substitution with the bonus of malty sweetness that makes the flavor of the bread more complex. I choose a cream ale here because one of my favorite beers from my travels is Kilkenny, an Irish cream ale. Any cream ale will work and those with hints of vanilla are especially good options.

Beer Bread

Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan with shortening. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Stir flour and sugar together. Pour in beer and stir until foaming subsides and flour is incorporated. Spoon into prepared pan and bake for 50&ndash60 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean or an instant-read thermometer reads about 190ºF.

Immediately remove from pan and set on a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Pour melted butter over the top and brush sides.

Let bread cool for 15 minutes or so, then serve warm. Once the bread is completely cooled, it can be sliced to use for sandwiches, toasted, or served plain.

Beer bread goes down as one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. I don&rsquot know if it&rsquos because the bread is warm, fluffy, buttery perfection, or if it&rsquos because my mom made it often. Probably a bit of both.

If you&rsquore not a fan of beer, no worries. Beer bread has a beautiful malty, yeasty flavor, that&rsquos light and not at all overwhelming or beer-y. It tastes &hellip comforting.

Here&rsquos what you need to bake beer bread.

That&rsquos it! Self-rising flour, a bit of sugar, and a beer (just one, not three). It is seriously the easiest bread you&rsquoll ever make.

Well, I lied. You also need butter for brushing over the top and the sides.

What beer should you use? ANY! (I told you that beer bread is easy!) I&rsquove found that the kind of beer doesn&rsquot matter much. Use a light beer, a stout, a pale ale &hellip that pumpkin beer hiding in the back of your fridge. You can make a few additions to complement a beer style and flavor, but most of that flavor will come from what you&rsquove added.

For basic beer bread, you&rsquoll stir together self-rising flour and sugar. Pour in a bottle of beer.

The mixture will be foamy. Stir until the foam subsides and all of the dry flour is incorporated.

Spoon into a loaf pan and bake.

Once finished, immediately remove from the pan and pour melted butter over the top and brush over the sides. Serve warm. This bread is also great once cooled for sandwiches and toast!

For variations, I like to keep things simple. That&rsquos one of the beauties of beer bread: it comes together in a snap. Scroll down for a recipe for Gruyere and Cheddar Beer Bread. It&rsquos so good with a bowl of soup, and makes a killer grilled cheese sandwich.

Because the bread is so fluffy and soft, mix-ins like cheese and spices work well here. I&rsquove played around with sweet varieties (are you surprised?), but I prefer beer bread plain or savory. Besides, there are so many great quick sweet breads already out there, like Brenda&rsquos Almond Poppy Seed, Erica&rsquos Maple Apple Pecan, Pumpkin Banana Bread, or Lemon Coconut.

Beer Soda Bread

Soda breads are fun as start to eating is under an hour. You only need a bowl, spatula, sifter, measuring cup/spoons and a 8.5ࡪ.5 inch loaf pan. If you are new to making bread, this is a great recipe to start with.

This recipe is designed for using with any carbonated beverage such as beer or carbonated mineral water. I have been experimenting with what I call “cooking beer,” similar to the concept of cooking wine or sherry. No/low alcohol beer makes a good flavouring agent while not breaking the bank. The President’s Choice Red Beer is about $.50 a can vs. several dollars for real beer. I was interested to see is carbonated mineral water would work. The result is more like a biscuit. Beer adds 3 grams (3/4 tsp) of sugar and malt flavours. The salt in the mineral water is so small it does not impact the final taste.

Tips for making a great soda bread.

    You need to Sift: It fluffs up the flour and mixes the dry ingredients together.

You Can&rsquot Make This with Brewers Yeast Supplement

I had a reader message me to say their yeast wasn&rsquot working. Then they sent a photo of a brewers yeast supplement they were trying to use.

Please note: the supplement version of brewers yeast will not work in this recipe or any other bread recipe, if you want to use it as the leavening agent.

This type of nutritional supplement is an inactive form of yeast. Otherwise, you&rsquod have a tummy full of alcohol and would be burping carbon dioxide for who knows how long!

The Ultimate Bread Machine Beer Bread Recipe

Beer bread is one of the easiest breads to bake and yet it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Beer bread is a tasty add-on to any soups or even pairs with most dips. It’s a favorite with a chilli dinner.

The subtle flavor of the beer seeps into the bread, giving it a unique taste you won’t get from any other bread. Plus, the heat from baking the bread burns the actual alcohol out so you don’t need to worry if you need a kid friendly dinner.

Every type of beer you use leaves its’ own different taste, from wheat beers to light pilsners. We’re going to share with you our ultimate bread machine beer bread recipe with our Cheesy Garlic Beer Bread as well as the simplest beer bread recipe if you’re a bread baking newbie!

Tips for Baking Beer Bread in a Bread Machine


Before we hand out the recipe for our cheesy garlic beer bread, there are a few tips you should know before you start baking any beer bread.

These tips will help perfect your beer bread and make it the most delicious bread you’ve ever bitten into!

Make sure your ingredients are aligned with the size of your bread machine. You don’t want to overfill your bread pan and end up with a mess. If you have a 1.5 pound pan don’t try to make a 2 pound loaf of bread.

Ingredients For This Recipe

To make this recipe, you’ll need just six ingredients – all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, unsalted butter, and beer. Here’s a quick break-down of each ingredient and why it’s important to this recipe:

  • All-Purpose Flour: There are 3 cups of flour in this bread. When measuring your flour, make sure to spoon and level it so that your bread turns out soft and not dense.
  • Granulated Sugar: There’s only 1/4 cup of added sugar in this bread to slightly sweeten it.
  • Baking Powder: There’s one tablespoon of baking powder to help it rise nice and tall.
  • Salt: The salt helps to enhance the flavors.
  • Unsalted Butter: This is what gives this bread extra flavor and makes it buttery too. You’ll melt the butter and stir part of it into the batter, then pour the rest of it on top of the batter in the pan before you bake it.
  • Beer: The star ingredient of this recipe! It’s best to use room temperature beer and I suggest using a beer that you like the flavor of for this recipe.

All you need are 6 simple ingredients to make this honey beer bread recipe:

  • All-purpose flour: This recipe is total comfort food for me, so I have only ever made it with all-purpose flour.
  • Baking powder: To help the bread rise.
  • Salt: I used fine sea salt.
  • Honey: Which balances out the savory flavors here with the perfect hint of sweetness.
  • Beer: I typically use an IPA, but just about any kind of favorite beer will work in this recipe!
  • Butter: Which we will use to grease the pan and brush on top of the bread to give it some extra-delicious buttery flavor.

The bread didn't rise much, but it was tasty

I was able to distinctly taste the Guinness stout in a complementary way. The beer's flavor didn't fight with the bread's flavor, in my opinion. I thought it tasted a little like sourdough with a slightly bitter twist. I wouldn't be upset if I got this in a restaurant bread basket.

When it first came out of the oven, it was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The loaf felt dense in my hands as I removed it from the baking dish, but the inside didn't reflect that at all.

After tasting it, I think cheddar and dill — and the optional sunflower seeds Brown suggested — would have worked well with the flavors. However, I didn't think it needed them. I was glad I added the chocolate chips especially since I used a stout beer. Those two components worked well together, in my opinion.

I think it's important to note that the bread heated up well in the toaster the next morning.

Overall, I thought it was an easy and tasty option for homemade bread.

This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).


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