Thursday, 12 April 2007

Homemade Ginger Beer

A couple of weeks ago somebody was at the pub I work at and was asking about the ales we have on. I described the ales to him and recommended Kelham Island Brewery's Pale Rider to him as it is a delicious hoppy ale, and perhaps the best beer I've ever tasted. I poured him a small sample, he had a taste, scrunched up his face and commented that it tasted like homebrew. Later, when trading stories about crazy customers with one of my colleagues, I told him that anecdote and that if I was capable of making homebrew to the quality of Pale Rider that I would be perpetually drunk and would most likely never leave the house. We then talked about people we knew who made homebrew (including a former roommate of mine who tried making "beer in a bag", which was one of the most vile concoctions to have ever passed my lips) and concluded that it really wasn't worth the effort. Except for, my colleague brought up, ginger beer, which he used to make with his mother. Sure, it's not really the same thing as proper beer, but it is brewing on a really basic level. I decided, in the interest of kitchen science, to try it. I followed the recipe from here as it seemed the easiest of the recipes I looked at.

I'm tasting the results of my labour now and while there are a few things that I would change about it the next time that I make it, it is certainly drinkable and fun to make.

The Recipe:

Homemade Ginger Beer

1 2L bottle of still water (tap water is fine if you have a spare 2L container that you can close tightly with a cap or a cork)
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp fast action yeast
1 lemon, juiced
At least 2-3 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger

Begin by decanting the water into a large container. Funnel the sugar and yeast into the bottle. Mix the grated ginger and lemon juice together and then add that to the bottle. Add about two-thirds of the water, cap the bottle and shake vigourously until the sugar has dissolved. Once this is done, top up the water leaving a gap at the top, cap the bottle tightly and leave it to ferment in a warm space such as an airing closet for 24-48 hours. You will be able to tell that the fermentation process is working by squeezing the bottle--as the gasses build up in the bottle, it will become more difficult to squeeze. Once the bottle is hard, refrigerate it, let it chill, and serve it.

What is healthy about this recipe: This drink has too much sugar in it to be healthy, but you could probably use raw cane sugar or something along those lines instead. That said, sugar is the only bad thing in it, and unlike store-bought soft drinks, you know exactly what is in it.

What is seasonal about this recipe: I don't know? What are the seasons for lemons and ginger?

What I learned from this recipe: Homebrewing is surprisingly easy. This doesn't mean that I'm going to try making real booze, if only for want of space and equipment.

What I will change next time: The ginger beer wasn't spicy enough for my liking, but I like a really hot and spicy ginger beer. I'd perhaps even double the amount of ginger in it. There was also a bit too much of a lemon flavour in it--I'd reduce the amount of lemon in it, maybe by half. I'm not sure how this would work in terms of the brewing--I don't know if the acidity is integral to the brewing process--but it's an easy and cheap recipe so if it turns out to be a failure, there's not much lost. There are also many different ways of making ginger beer and I'd like to try some of those ways to see how those work out.

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