August 21, 2012

How to Make Your Own Ginger Beer

Ginger Libation, a Panama hat, and an iron
bottle opener from BMW Ironworks.
At my family reunion this past June, my cousin Ben, a blacksmith, showed up with a couple bottles of Green River Ambrosia's Ginger Libation. It rocked my palate and sparked my curiosity. At a potent 8.5% ABV, the Libation will kick your ass if you're not careful.

I was intrigued by the list of ingredients: pineapple juice, lemon juice, lime juice, ginger, cane sugar. Hey, these are all easy to find in Panama. Why not give it a shot?

First, I needed a little more information. Green River's Ginger Libation is made with entirely organic ingredients. But how does it ferment? Does it use yeast, like beer? Or does it spontaneously ferment from airborne yeasts and bacteria?

After doing some research, I found that authentic ginger beers are made with something not so easy to find: GBP, or Ginger Beer Plant. Not actually a plant at all, GBP is a mix of specific strains of yeast and bacteria used to ferment ginger beers.

I decided not to get too hung up on the GBP and opted to use Safale-04 brewers yeast instead. No reason it shouldn't work, right? Besides, it was what I had on hand.

Here is the recipe I settled on for a small test batch (You can also include pineapple juice for some tropical flavor. Use 100% juice, no preservatives):
  • 2L water
  • 430g Panamanian (local!) cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 oz. ginger root
  • 1/2 sachet of Safale-04 Dry Ale Yeast
1. Dissolve the cane sugar in 2L water
2. Add juice from one Panamanian limón and cream of tartar
3. Briefly scald ginger in boiling water to clean and sanitize
4. Coarsely chop ginger and put into a small straining bag and add to carboy
5. Add all other ingredients to carboy, allow to cool to less that 90 degrees, shake it up, add yeast

OG - 1.063
FG - 1.012
ABV - 6.7%

Two weeks later, bottle it like you would a regular homebrew, and you get a boozy, spicy ginger beer!

I found it combined nicely with Panama Homebrew #1 to make a Double Homebrewed Beer Cocktail (AKA a Dark n Stormy):
  • 1 part dark, local rum (in this case, Ron Abuelo, de Panamá)
  • 2 parts homebrewed Pale Ale (preferably pale and bitter; Sierra Nevada will work)
  • 2 parts homebrewed ginger beer (spicy and just a little sweet)
  • a squeeze of lime
  • serve over ice
Fill your glass to the top and enjoy!

Got a ginger beer or beer cocktail recipe of your own? Share it in the comments!