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Homemade Ginger Beer

Posted by Reese on 2009-05-06 @ 10:30pm

So, I’m having a bit of trouble finding ginger beer around here.  Andy suggested Regatta which is available from Kegworks.com for those of us not lucky enough to not have it available in our area.  I’m certain Regatta is quite tasty but I couldn’t bring myself to spend $40 for 12, at least not right now.  Alan also had a good suggestion, namely Goya’s ginger beer.  Sadly, also not readily available around here.  I’ve checked the markets around here, including all the awesome hippy markets and nada.  So there was only one alternative left.  Make my own.

I went searching on the intertubes for a good recipe and stumbled on a couple.  One of the  “traditional” recipes called for creating the ginger beer mixture and allowing it to sit out for up to a month with the idea that the mixture will spontaneously ferment as a result of the naturally occurring yeast in our environment.  While I have some doubts about whether this is the way ginger beer is created traditionally at this time there is certainly the possibility that this was once done.  Slight problem that I ran in to with this plan, though.  I’m a huge fan of immediate gratification.  So, I kept searching.

Next I found Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s recipe, which is an interesting occurence unto itself as his recipe appears higher in the google search results than the Chow.com recipe, but that story can wait.  Jeffrey offers two options.  Option one, you can mix up his ginger beer recipe and pass it through a iSi Soda Syphon to carbonate.  Option two, you mix up the same recipe, add a very tiny bit of champagne yeast to each bottle and let it ferment for a couple days.  This fermentation creates natural carbonation.

I’ll reference you back to comment about immediate gratification so we’re on the same page for this next anecdote.  I figured the solution was very simple.  I own a Soda Stream carbonator, I’d simply mix up the ginger beer per the recipe and carbonate as I have hundreds of bottles of water in the past.  Now, the Soda Stream manual clearly states that only pure clean water should ever be carbonated with the machine.  But what do they know, right?  More than I do it’s now clear.  After a half dozen presses of the button the mixture was carbonated and it was time to remove the bottle.

Herein lay the problem.  Plain water in a seamless plastic bottle has very few nucleation points.  Therefore most of the CO2 remains in suspension when the bottle is unscrewed.  Ginger beer on the other hand has all manner of tiny floaty bits that act as perfect nucleation points.  Thus, as soon as I unscrewed the bottle it overflowed filling the unit with sticky ginger beer residue.  Good news though.  I rescued the bottle of ginger beer and it was fantastic.  I was also able to completely clean my carbonator and it’s back in perfect working condition.

Ginger Beer

However, seeing as that option isn’t exactly a repeatable experiment I opted for the yeast fermented recipe for my next batch.  They’re currently residing in my guest bathroom shower in the event that they uncerimoniously explode during the next 48 hours of carbonation.  Check in Saturday for an update on how these turned out.