Ginger “Ale”

Through the pandemic, one of my nephews has caught fermenting fever and has inadvertently rekindled my counter-culture adventures. It has been great fun comparing notes!

He calls this drink ginger beer, but I have always called it ginger ale; he might be right, though. According to “the googs,” ginger ale is just ginger syrup with seltzer water, or something like that: unfermented. What I have done in the past and today is build a ginger bug, let that ferment, then build a wort, add some bug, let that ferment, then bottle.

So here’s that process in photos:

Ginger bug, July 27th

I started out by weighing 10g each water, ginger & sugar. I let that sit overnight in a warm spot (which is really anywhere here because it’s summer and we don’t have air conditioning). The next day, I added another 10g each: ginger, sugar, water. I continued to do this until I had about 3/4 pint of “ginger bug.”

It should be noted that it started to bubble within the first week, but then I fed it 1:1:1, maybe a little too much: something like 25g each, and it didn’t bubble for a very long time. I want to say it was like 2 weeks or something. I thought I had killed it.

But then!

It’s very hard to see here, but there are a bunch of very small bubbles that would occur around the edge of the jar every time I even slightly moved it. Then I starved it a little, and it got very, very active. It was finally time to make ginger ale… I mean beer.

I found a tasty-sounding wort on Wellness Mama, and followed it pretty closely.

A few days later, I saw small colonies of yeast growing in the ferment jar, so I sterilized four flip-top bottles and strained the ale into them.

Today was the day we cracked one open! It has only been bottled under pressure for a couple days, so it had a mild fizz, but certainly a zing; it was tangy, slightly sweet, tart, and very gingery with warm notes probably from the brown sugar.

Refreshing ginger probiotic drink!

It went so well, in fact, that we decided to try making a “root beer” tonight, but there’s only one hitch: we can’t get most of our herbs because our apothecary is in Massachusetts, and we risk a $500 fine to cross the border because of Covid-19 restrictions. So we made do with what we had on hand:

We used fennel seed, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon stick, fresh mint, vanilla, brown sugar, ginger from the ginger bug, plus a little fresh ginger, and water to make the wort, then set it in the jar to ferment a couple days for the same process as the ginger ale. We removed the cinnamon stick before transferring to the jar. Justin was worried it would be too overpowering.

We gave the wort a quick taste and really enjoyed it. I don’t know if it will taste exactly like this after it ferments, but it is very reminiscent of ginger-vanilla root beer. I guess we’ll find out in a few days!


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