Sourdough yeast starter from Jolly Pumpkin Dregs


Sourdough culture with a little help from a Jolly Pumkin american saison

                 I know “baking” is not “brewing”! I know that this is a beer blog, but I like to go against the grain. Just look at the title of the blog Traditional Brewing : Reinvented! Thats the point! So… I had this bottle sitting in my fridge for a little while now and I’m trying to decide what to do with it. I have bugs -a-plenty for beer brewing, but call me an obsessive yeast horder or what ever…I just couldn’t bring myself to chuck out the yeast in this bottle. Why not start a dough culture with the dregs!? Beer and bread go together perfectly! A sourdough starter fermenting.

 So why does this belong on a beer blog? All of these foods are yeast driven and all of them start out with a yeast starter in some way, whether you use sourdough or not…just like beer. Its amazing the similarities between artisan bread and beer. Both are process driven, not  ingredients driven, for the most part. For example you can make a great pale ale with the simplest ingredients and enter it into a competition and it may walk away with the Best Of Show ribbon.  A pale ale recipe can be as simple as : 2-row pale malt, a small amount of crystal/caramel malt for color, a clean ale yeast, and a good mix of hops. Its HOW you put these together that makes it win the best of show.   A ciabatta bread recipe could very well be the simplest bread recipe ever. Most basic recipes are just yeast,flour, olive oil(optional), water, and salt. So you can see what I mean by process not ingredients driven. With those few ingredients you can get so much flavor if they are used the right way.  BUT if you add in another layer of flavor in the way of wild yeast, it just gets that much more complex.

  • Soughdough
Two naturally-leavened (sourdough) loaves. Fro...

Sourdough rye bread

Sourdough is nothing more than yeast and bacteria work together side by side. The yeast give the bread more rise than flavor, and the bacteria give more flavor than rise. So the idea is the same as a beer yeast starter: to build up the yeast/microorganisms colony for a good ferment. Sourdough is just like caring for a pet, you must care for it and feed it often to keep up vitality. This is especially true when trying to start the culture itself. I’ve read stories of the gold miners in the old west actually sleeping with thier sourdough starters!  From what I’ve read most of the bread bugs (we’ll call them), come from the use of whole wheat flour, however I have seen new starters using white bread flour. The theory is that because the whole wheat flour is not as processed and refined as white bleached flour, that it will stand to have more natural bread bugs present. 

This is a classic case of PH and the natural selection that follows. Because of the lactobacillus that is present on the flour and in the starter, the PH begins to drop when the population increases: which kills off many unwanted invaders to your starter. The yeast is absolutely not bothered by a low PH, in fact its prefered by the yeast, so they are natural coexistent organisms.

  • Starting out 
  • I began with 1/2 cup of mostly whole wheat flour mixed with small amount of  white bread flour. I used the white bread flour because they use some malted barley in the manufacturing process of the flour.
  • Mix in just enough water (use filtered or spring, just not tap if possible), to make a pancake batter like slurry when mixed together. This will help with escalting the vitality of the culture quickly. Cover your container loosely or cover with a  cheesecloth to allow air exchange.
  • The next day feed the starter again with the same amount of flour and again add enough water to get the slurry a little  thicker this time.
  • Repeat the same step as above however this time discard some of the slurry to make room for the fresh stuff. When you mix it this time try to mix it somewhat thicker, (less water). The idea is to give the yeast a chance to rise the small amount of dough you are making which means developing the gluten in the dough.
  • A few days of this process and the dough should be rising and doubling its size it the container due to the buildup of the yeast colony. When its gets to this stage it is ready for use in baking bread
  • (more info of the complete process here) :


  • Getting some help via Jolly Pumpkin

This is where I stray from the instructions I just gave above. I made the flour/water slurry however this is where I added the Jolly Pumpkin dregs. The bottle already has the bugs that fermented the beer. In the past I have successfully fermented beer with the dregs in these bottles so I know there is still some life in there. There is enough food in the flour to at very least get something started in the slurry.

I havn’t had the chance to bake with the starter as of yet, but the aroma coming out of the slurry jar is absolutely unbelievable! It smells exactly like unbaked sourdough bread. I am still unclear if the dregs had any impact on the slurry or if it will have any impact on the final product, but why toss it out when I can give them a new mission in a sourdough culture?  This article is by no means all incompassing when talking about sourdough. The best website I have found is at and here:   Two of these sites are soley dedicated to sourdough, but there are lots of info on all of them. So get reading!

This is just something else to think about before you rinse out you bottles, you could be pouring out you next dough starter. Cheers…and bake on!?