Ginger beer, the predecessor of the ginger beer sold in liquor stores today, is said to have been invented in the mid-17th century. It originated in Britain at the end of the 19th century.  The name comes from the fermentation process that gives the drink its carbonation, although it’s actually more like making cider. In a traditional process, the drink would start with a ginger plant or a culture of yeast and bacteria, similar to a starter that can be stored and used to make numerous batches.

Although ginger was grown all over the world, the drink became especially popular in the Caribbean, where the strong, spicy varieties of the root created a distinct style with more heat and spice than its predecessors. Today, ginger ale is used as a base for classic cocktails such as Moscow’s Mule and Dark n’ Stormy and has seen a resurgence over the past decade, with numerous new brands entering the market.

Although traditional, yeast-fermented ginger beer can be slightly alcoholic, most commercial bottles are alcohol-free unless otherwise noted.

You can use yeast to make a naturally carbonated ginger beer at home with a small amount of alcohol, but we chose the forced carbonation option for the sake of simplicity (and less tedious disinfecting and risk of exploding bottles). All you need is a SodaStream, an iSi soda siphon, or any other brand of homemade carbonator, or even just a bottle of soda water to use as a tap.

If you want to delve into the yeast brewing process for your future batches, here’s a quick guide.

 

photo: Katrin Björk

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • ½ cup honey, preferably orange.
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 4 Limettes, pressed
  • 8 dashes Angostura Bitter
  • 2 teaspoons orange blossom water (optional)

Route description

Peel the skin of the ginger with a spoon and grate it or cut it into small cubes. Put the ginger in a pan with 2 litres of water, the cloves and the cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool overnight.

Photo by Katrin Björk

Strain the mixture through a sieve or cheesecloth and return it to the pot. Squeeze or press the remaining ginger spice in a colander to get the remaining highly concentrated juice.

Photo: Katrin Björk

Bring the liquid to a low temperature, then stir in the honey and brown sugar until dissolved.

Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add freshly squeezed lime juice, Angostura bitters and orange blossom water. Stir and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

photo: Katrin Björk

Add the carbonate mixture to the soda trap. If you are using a SodaStream or a device designed primarily for carbonated water, as opposed to a siphon, use short bursts of carbonation, no more than half of what is required for carbonated water. Otherwise, after adding the sugar and honey, simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. To serve, mix the concentrated ginger beer base with equal parts seltzer. This gives two quarters.

Published on 2. April 2021

frequently asked questions

How to make ginger beer at home?

Add the grated ginger and malt extract to the pan and as much water as the pan will allow without exceeding the amount (leave room so it doesn’t boil over). Bring the pan to a boil and simmer for at least 5 minutes (most people use 10-20 minutes to be sure).

Is homemade ginger beer alcoholic?

A small amount of alcohol is produced as a by-product of the yeast. … We have checked in our laboratory the alcohol content produced by the fermentation of this product (Ginger Ale) and found it to be between 0.35 and 0.5%.

How is ginger beer made?

The original ginger beer is brewed with water, sugar, ginger, additional ingredients such as lemon juice and cream of tartar. It then ferments for a few days, converting some of the sugar into alcohol.

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