Is there a preferred beer style for making malt vinegars? Has anybody experimented with using different styles of beer to make vinegar and what types of results were experienced.
To my knowledge there is no preferred beer style that is preferred for making malt vinegar - it is just that it can be brewed from malt. No hops are added to malt solutions used for fermenting, for example so it would be difficult to call the base liquor a "beer". Traditionally beer per se is not usually used for making vinegar. "Vin gar" bad wine is usually the traditional source of making vinegar (eg balsamico) although I accept ciders and fruit brews are also frequently used.
The modern practice is to infect a sterile sugar solution with yeast and then acetobacter and let it ferment to make acetic acid. That is distilled out to make more concentrated acetic acid which is diluted and flavoured in various ways. Modern "Malt" vinegar is usually flavoured and coloured with caramel. It can certainly be made or flavoured with malt extract (as the name suggests) but it isn't the usual method. Except perhaps its accidental use by home-brewers desperate to find a use for another spoilt brew! :0) Malt has largely been replaced with corn/maize sugar due to lower cost.
I own and operate a vinegar company:
Beer style certainly effects the process and outcome of fermented vinegar. Vinegar bacteria is as unique as your environment, some strains being more aggressive or tolerable than others.
Preference with style is only dependent on how much home-brew you may mess up or what your desired end-flavor may be. Lighter beers ferment out with lower acidity due to their generally lower alcohol levels. Reds, browns and doubles can ferment out to be your average dry vinegar with great acidity. Strong ales or boozy beers can ferment out with acidity with residual sugars to balance the flavor.
Its best to understand vinegar fermentation as if you were fermenting wort. But when using aceto-bacter (AB), your fuel is alcohol, not sugar. Try fermenting a 5 Gallon LME to 4 gallons water with some basic 001. Let it go for 2 weeks, transfer to a vessel that allows breathing but is covered with cheese cloth. You will need a proven AB inoculation. 3 months later you'll have vinegar (assuming 65 to 90 degrees). Keep in mind lots of off flavors are produced through the process but it ultimately cleans out to great aroma.
Vinegar is like a college student, it loves: dark, warmth, alcohol and air