Has anyone ever used the ubiquitous Flesichmann's baking yeast for brewing? Is there a fermented beverage style for which it works particularly well?
You could use baking yeast for brewing, as both yeasts are different strains of the same species, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, but brewers' strains have been cultivated for hundreds of years for specific attributes regarding flavor, attenuation, and consistency. Bakers' yeast hasn't gone through this selective breeding process. It will have a lower tolerance for alcohol, less flocculation, and tends to make beer that tastes, well, bready.
Additionally, certain styles of beer derive their individuality from the yeast used to ferment them and the distinct flavors that the yeast produce. Using bakers' yeast would effectively preclude you from brewing most styles of beer.
Someone once told me using baking yeast was like driving a nail with a brick. Why not just use a hammer?
When I was in jail I used orange juice, or even koolaid packets and then added pieces of crackers (yeast is said to be burnt up, but if you put it under hot water a few times the one or two few yeasts that somehow survive start to reproduce, it takes a few days but you see results).
Didn't taste "great" but got up around 14% I'd say. For sure a buzz. (yeast ball in it made you sick if you drank it though)
This was touched upon above, but you are going to be better off using wild yeasts than a strain of bread yeast. A passable wine can be made by crushing a few handfuls of grapes in a blender and mixing that with grape juice (or other fruit juice). This will yield a wine with a lower alcohol content - around 7-8% depending on the base juice. Additional table sugar can be added (heat a portion of the juice to dissolve the sugar) to reach 11-12% wine. HOWEVER, as someone who brews in remote regions of the world, I prefer to take a packet of yeast and use a tiny pinch per batch (instead of the entire packet) and use a strain that I am confident in, as opposed to using wild yeasts or baking yeast. I've done both and can confirm from testing that the result is much more enjoyable with commerical wine yeast. Good information can be found in The Art of Fermentation which is all about traditional forms of fermentation.
The traditional Finnish brew Sahti uses bread yeast for fermentation. You can see how this celebration drink is made on the current episode of Brewing TV.
I do agree with Brandon in that for best results use the product for which it is intended.
Kvass. This is a beer made, at least in part, from leftover stale bread, and so bread yeast is appropriate.
I've used it for mead with great success using this rather unorthodox recipe: http://www.winepress.us/forums/index.php?showtopic=6114
I don't know that it's generally useful for mead, but it's hard to argue with yummyness. :p
Warning: Do Not use Fleishmanns or any other major brand of bread yeast. Ive conducted many experiments in years past when brewing supply runs were day trips across los angeles. Even "organic yeast" grown in mollasses. I may have gotten perfect fermentation profiles out of ' em, but they would always leave an annoying (usually annoyin) taste means a single chemical. I actally found a brand at Albertsons for "whole grain bread" from something -Mills . Really english ale character. Floctuated really strong .sticky yeast. When yeast settled out quickly. Barley any yeast taste. Actually want to do a side by side soon. Trying to create a house strain.
I have used bakers yeast with a cider in the past and I found the taste of the brew to be ...yeasty in flavor.
It was my first cider that wasn't from a kit so it could have been my error, but since then I have used proper cider/Champaign yeast with much better results.
I would definitely recommend using proper brewing yeast if you are going to bother to take the time to create the brew in the first place.