Sunday, January 13, 2013

Recipe: Beer Vinegar, Mead Vinegar Experiment

A confluence of events has led me to try my hand at making vinegar. I've been interested in the whole fermentation thing for a while: cheese, beer, bread and mead. I've made those or at least the simplest form of those. Kimchee and sauerkraut are also not unknown to this guy with Polish background. It always seems to me that the simplest thing is to leave food to ferment.

Several times I have looked at the mother at the bottom of the Bragg's container and thought how easy it would be to just drop some apple cider in there, but sometimes I'm too lazy to get a bottle of cider to let it rot. Also, my kids would be so mad if I brought home special apple juice and didn't let them drink it. So, it hasn't happened.

This past week, the universe has given me signs, or I have let my inner sloth free, whichever you would like to believe. Various sources have given me pieces to the puzzle and I intend to put them together. Just for curiosity, I will list those little hints just to prove that I am not crazy.

Hint #1: Secrets of the Best Chefs. On page 344 which is Hugh Acheson's section (from Ottawa, ahem), a hint in the margin states:
If you buy a vinegar with a live culture (like Bragg's), when the bottle is almost empty, you can start a universal vinegar (meaning a vinegar composed of lots of different liquids). Just refill the bottle with beer or leftover wine and cap it with cheesecloth and string. A few weeks later, you'll have vinegar ready to go.
Hint #2: Kitchn article about leftover Champagne. (Who has leftover champagne?)

Hint #3:  Niagara College First Draught Rudolphs Red Nose Ale at The Only Cafe. It tasted sour, but not in a good way but rather in a vinegar way.

Hint #4: Finally got around to flipping through wild fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz and read the section on vinegar. It turns out if you leave a fermentable liquid past the booze stage, you get vinegar. So, that got me to thinking...

I have two containers of "leftover" beer in my fridge. One is for maltier beer and the other for hoppier, more bitter beer. I use these leftovers for making bread, baked beans and messing around with other recipes. I add to these containers when I get a mediocre but drinkable brew, some dregs from a large bottle or the last drops from a long night.

The question was whether to use a mother that I had floating at the bottom of a malt whisky vinegar. I have decided after reviewing other beer vinegar experiments to try from scratch. Most others have used Bragg's but Katz states that you don't need a starter. Considering the success that I had with mead a couple years ago, I am going to take the chance.

So, I have taken a bit of mead, malty beer and hoppy beer, covered them with cheesecloth and leaving them out for a few weeks. Here is what they look like now. Check back in a few weeks and we will see and taste what happens.


  1. Cool experiment. Wonder how long it would take each of them in the winter and indoors. Would be interesting to see the same experiment in action in the Spring with more airborne matter.

  2. Good to hear you have such a keep interest! Would be great to see more of your progress on this!