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Ginger beer

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Ginger beer is a carbonated drink that is flavoured primarily with ginger and sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners. Most ginger beer produced commercially is a manufactured soft drink. The original version, rarely produced commercially since the mid-twentieth century but often home brewed, is a brewed alcoholic beverage.

Brewed ginger beer originated in England in the mid-1700s and became popular in Britain, the United States, and Canada, reaching a peak of popularity in the early 1900s. Today ginger beer is almost always produced as a soft drink. Ginger beer as a soft drink has been moderately popular in many parts of the world since it was introduced.

Left: English Ginger beer.

 
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The ginger beer soft drink may be mixed with beer (usually a British ale of some sort) to make one type of shandy, and with Gosling's Black Seal rum to make a drink, originally from Bermuda, called a Dark 'N' Stormy. It is the main ingredient in the Moscow Mule cocktail.

Left: A 6.5-gallon glass carboy acting as a fermentation vessel for beer.

Homemade ginger beer can be made as either a soft drink or an alcoholic drink (see the recipe below). Make it in a carboy with more sugar or malt extract, and with longer fermentation time, for alcoholic ginger beer.

Ginger Beer Recipe Ingredients

  • 100-300 grams ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 1 whole lemon, zested and juiced OR 2 tsp cream of tartar mixed with lemon extract or zest to make a lemon juice substitute
  • 500 grams sugar
  • water to 10 litres
  • fermentation starter (see note)
 

Servings: 12.

Preparation: 20 minutes

Ferment: 1-2 days

Preparation Method

 
  1. Simmer the ginger, lemon zest and sugar in about 1.5L water for about 10 minutes.

  2. If using yeast as the fermentation starter, rehydrate the yeast in a glass of warm water for 5 minutes.

  3. Add the lemon juice, cream of tartar and water to the fermenter (see note).

  4. Let the mixture sit in a closed container until it has started bubbling well, which should take 8-12 hours with yeast, or longer with kefir grains.

  5. Bottle into PET bottles or other soft plastic food-safe bottles.

  6. When the bottles are hard (not just firm), put them into the fridge.

  7. Serve cool.

Notes, tips, and variations

 

  • Fermentation starter: use kefir grains or tibicos or ginger beer plant or ale yeast or bread yeast.

  • Lemon juice is to provide acidity (as well as flavor).

  • Fermenter: a food-grade bucket will do, or a large stainless-steel pot; don't use copper or aluminium.

  • The water used should be free of chlorine if possible - e.g. boiled and cooled, or filtered, or bottled spring water. This is because chlorine (or chloramine) will inhibit the fermentation a little. Use what you've got, but best results will be obtained without the chlorine.

  • Once the ginger beer is fermenting, as evidenced by lots of tiny bubbles rising to the surface, it can be used as a leavening agent. Simply replace the water and yeast in a bread recipe with ginger beer, and leave to rise as normal.

  • If left to ferment longer (about a week) a yeasty colony called a Ginger Beer Plant will develop. Carbonation will also increase, greatly raising the chances for bottle (or other container) exploding.

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