Why It Works
- Brown sugar can be adjusted to suit your desired level of sweetness.
- Lime juice brings balance to the spicy ginger flavor.
When I'm not making homebrew and writing about it, my other life is training to become a pediatrician. One of the hazards of this career is exposure to tons of infectious viruses and bacteria. Good hand hygiene, eating well, and exercise can ward off most infections, but last week one got through—and it was a nasty gastroenteritis. As I lay in bed contemplating my impending death I dreamed of an elixir that could ease the pain and wet my lips without causing a crisis. I dreamed of ginger beer.
Even now that I've recovered, ginger beer is still enticing. I'm happy to drink it alongside my lunch, and it's a great non-alcoholic alternative to beer for the Superbowl. It can be a mid-afternoon sugar boost or an after-dinner digestif.
Ginger beer is ginger ale's sinister cousin. Like ginger ale, it is ginger-flavored, sweetened, carbonated, and served cold. But where ginger ale is sweet with a hint of ginger, ginger beer is ginger with a hint of sweet. Commercial examples range from tepidly gingery to knock-your-socks-off spicy and can have a range of additional flavors, including citrus and other spices. It's great by itself, and essential for mixing with dark rum in a Dark and Stormy, as well as a host of other cocktails.
Ginger beer is also simple to make, involving just cooking a flavored simple syrup and carbonating it. Ginger beer is traditionally carbonated (and fermented) with ginger beer plant, a bacterial-fungal symbiotic organism, but today's homebrewers can use simple champagne yeast or forced carbonation. Given the short fermentation time (the drink is refrigerated, halting fermentation, as soon as a desirable carbonation level is achieved), the final alcohol content is typically less than 1%.
3/4 cup (5 1/2 ounces; 157g) packed brown sugar (you can adjust to taste)
1 1/2 cups (9 3/8 ounces; 266g) peeled and minced fresh ginger (about 6 to 7 3-inch pieces)
2/3 cup (158ml) freshly squeezed lime juice (about 8-9 limes)
1/4 teaspoon dried champagne yeast
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, ginger, and 1 quart (945ml) cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour to steep.
Strain syrup through fine-mesh strainer and funnel into 2-liter soda bottle. Add lime juice, then fill with cold water to within 2 inches of top. Cap and cool in refrigerator or ice bath until about 65°F (18°C).
Add champagne yeast. Cap bottle and let stand at room temperature for about 2 days, checking bottle pressure intermittently by squeezing it or releasing the cap slightly and briefly.
When ginger beer has achieved desired carbonation level, transfer to refrigerator. To serve, strain into glass.
Large sauce pan, strainer, funnel, clean 2-liter soda bottle
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 0g||0%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||1%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|