For the past couple of years, I’ve enjoyed finding craft sodas, and my son has developed quite the palette for fine root beers. While ginger beer (or ginger ale as some call it) is not his favorite, his mom and I sure think it is nice.
While surfing around the internet, I decided to see what it would take to brew our very own ginger beer from scratch. I found plenty of recipes and techniques, and finally settled on something in between Alton Brown’s Ginger Ale and a chemist in Ohio’s recipe. While both recipes are very similar, I still felt it necessary to make some minor changes.
In the end our first attempt at Straughan’s World Famous Ginger Beer was a success, and is now open-source.
You will need the following ingredients
- 2 Liters of filtered water (not chlorinated stuff from tap)
- 1 Lemon (juiced)
- 1 1/2 Tbl Ground fresh ginger root
- 3/4 C Sugar
- 1/4 C Local Honey
- 1/8 tsp champagne yeast
You will also need a 2 liter bottle, sanitizer, and a refrigerator. 7 year old kid is optional.
The entire project will be built inside the 2 liter bottle, so everything is simple. I also took a lot of pictures so I did not have to type much for this post.
I did not take photos of the sanitization process. I used BrewVint Cleanitizer from a local homebrew supply store and followed the directions. There are plenty of ways to sanitize your 2L bottle, just make sure you follow the directions of whatever method you choose. I’ve even heard of people using denture cleaning tablets to do the job, but Google should have the answers.
Once your bottle is so fresh and so clean (clean) you can start grinding and juicing.
You’ll need about 1 1/2 (one and a half) Tbl of fresh ground ginger. I did not measure the lemon juice, I just threw the ground ginger in the juice of one large lemon and made a slurry. It smelled wonderful.
None of the recipes called for honey, and I have a thing for local honey. To remedy this obvious oversight, I decided to swap 1:1 honey for sugar, for 25% of the recommended sugar amount, or in this case: 1/4 cup (I used Fowler Honey which is close to my house).
In an effort to minimize cleanup, I opted to just fill the 1C measuring cup 3/4 full of sugar and then fill to the top with honey. While this sounds like a good idea at first, getting the honey/sugar mix to go down the funnel was not the most enjoyable experience, although it was apparently fun to watch. I’d recommend measuring and adding them separately, unless you are a spectator, then encourage the soda-maker to combine these like I did.
We need bubbles, or this isn’t really soda, it’s just fancy Kool-Aid. While some recipes used bread yeast, I splurged for some good champagne yeast. It was about a buck for enough to make 10 gallons. You can buy it everywhere, even amazon, and your local home-brew store will definitely be able to hook you up.
For our recipe we only use 1/8 teaspoon of yeast, which is not much more than a pinch. Exact amounts are not very important, but too much will leave a yeasty taste in your soda.
Combine all the ingredients, fill bottle with water leaving about 1” of room at the top, cap it, and give it a good shake. I purchased new caps at the home-brew store, making it much easier to reseal the bottle. You’ll want to store the bottle somewhere room temperature, that is not in the sun, and wont be a horrible place for a soda bottle to blow up. We picked a cabinet in the laundry room.
Feel the bottle before you store it. It should have plenty of “give”. Now feel a store bought soda bottle. It is firm. Feel (and shake up) your ginger ale twice a day until it is as firm as the store bought stuff. Then throw it in the fridge until it is cold. If you use honey like I did, the shaking process may need to happen more often, and you’ll need to shake until all sugar/honey is fully dissolved - this took several mixings over the first day to accomplish.
Online sources say the carbonation can be done in 48 hours. The week we made it was cool, and it took 3.5 days.
We have a winner.
Straining the ginger ale makes for a less chunky experience, but either way it is good stuff. You’ll want to keep it refrigerated and cold to prevent continued fermentation and carbonation, and it should be good for about a month with occasional burping. This stuff is so tasty, there is no way it’ll last that long in our house.
Apart from some measuring, sanitizing, and grating the ginger root, our 7 year old son was able to make most of this with me. It is a fun and easy project, and our son loved checking the bottle every morning and evening. Most of all he liked the final product.
For anyone interested, here is what is on his shirt:
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. -Dr Seuss