Ginger Beer

This is cloudy, fiery, and a teensy bit alcoholic. But oh, so good for a Summer’s day, even one where it’s cold, rainy, and with a maximum of 18ºC.

The quantities used produce 2L of finished product, allowing for spillage and avoidance of sediment.

Peel a piece of root ginger, with the aim of ending up with 50g of the stuff. (Wrap and put the excess in the freezer for later.) You could grate the ginger, or just chop it up into pieces and give them a going over with a rolling pin.

Get the kettle going.

Plop the ginger in a 3L capacity bowl, along with 250g caster sugar and the juice of two lemons, around 50mL, if you’re in a tight squeeze and using stuff from a bottle.

Pour the contents of the kettle on top, you’re going to need 2.5L boiling water, so you may need to boil and pour again.

Leave this to cool until it’s below 45ºC – use a thermometer or your little finger if you trust it. Add a level teaspoon of yeast, a level teaspoon of cream of tartar, and stir. (If it’s too hot, it will kill the yeast, so don’t skip the cooling phase.)

Cover and leave overnight (i.e. around twelve hours) somewhere cool, but not in the fridge.

Now, for the bottling. Always use PET drink bottles, preferably ones that have been used to store fizzy drinks, as you know they will be able to stand the pressure. Never, ever, ever use glass bottles. Make sure they’re clean. You now need to get the ginger beer into the bottles, without any stray bits of ginger or sediment from the bottom of the pot. So pour carefully and gently, using a fine mesh sieve (or a coarse one lined with muslin) and a funnel.

Fill the bottles to within about an inch of the top. Screw the caps on tight enough so that when you squeeze the bottle, the air escapes. Keep squeezing until all the air has escaped, and then tighten the caps.

It will need 2 days before it’s ready. Store the bottles at room temperature, but somewhere cool, and out of direct sunlight. There is a risk that the bottles may explode, so make the necessary arrangements. I put mine in a plastic tub, with a garbage bag tied over the top. From time to time, inspect the bottles, and if they’re bulging, loosen the caps momentarily to let out the excess gas.

Oh, the glamour!

Chill, and drink within a few days. There will also be sediment in the bottles, so pour carefully.

Variations

  • use different kinds of sugar, and/or a blend of sugars
  • vary the sugar:water ratio – 100g:1L seems the norm but you could try 80g:1L if you wanted something a little sterner
  • the sugar I used previously shared a jar with a vanilla pod, which added a nice aroma and mellowed the fire of the ginger
  • another lemon won’t hurt, but you’ll end up with gingery lemon squash
  • play with the quantity of cream of tartar to vary the amount of fizz – I think my one level teasp is probably at the upper limit
  • pop in a couple of cloves
  • include the zest from the lemons, if they’re unwaxed
  • Nigel Slater suggests a bashed up lemongrass stalk
  • some sources recommend the yeast you use for beer or winemaking, breadmaking yeast is bred for speed and aggression, but doesn’t stay the course

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