History Dish Mondays: Ginger Beer

Ginger Beer, not so clear.

I was inspired to try this recipe after Zaite sent me a simple brewing recipe from Alton Brown, that reminded me of the daily home brewing that was common in the 18th and early 19th century America. For families, it was an important source of clean water and nutrients; home brewing seemed to be less common after the temperance movement started to take hold in the 1840s.


Ginger Beer
Original recipe from The House Servent’s Directory by Robert Roberts.
Modern recipe adapted from Alton Brown.

1 tablespoon powdered ginger; or 1 1/2 ounces finely grated fresh ginger
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
7 1/2 cups filtered water
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Place the ginger, sugar, cream of tartar and 1/2 cup of the water into a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

If you use fresh ginger, remove from the heat, cover and allow to steep for 1 hour. Pour the syrup through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl, pressing down to get all of the juice out of the mixture.

If you use ground ginger, remove from heat and add remaining water and lemon juice; set in the refrigerator, uncovered, until at least room temperature, 68 to 72 degrees F.

Using a funnel, pour into a clean 2-liter plastic bottle and add the yeast. The bottle will not be filled to the top–this is necessary to leave room for the yeast to expel gas, carbonating the drink.

Place the cap on the bottle, gently shake to combine and leave the bottle at room temperature for 48 hours. Open and check for desired amount of carbonation. It is important that once you achieve your desired amount of carbonation that you refrigerate the ginger ale. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, opening the bottle at least once a day to let out excess carbonation.

You can also try this recipe with molasses for an “Excellent Jumble Beer.”

When I opened the bottle after two days, it foamed up a lot. Enough that I had to hold it over the sink. I poured a little tasting glass, and it had all kinds of floaties in it. I don’t know if it was the yeast, of grains of ground ginger that got kicked up from the bottom when it was opened. It tasted alright: a little zingy, a little citrus, a little yeasty.. I put the rest in the refrigerator to mellow for a few more days.

I found the longer it sat, the better it tasted. A week later, it’s sweet and smooth, and still carbonated. For you home brewing guys out there, I’d love to find out what the alcoholic content is. And if you live in NYC, I still have some left if you’d like to taste it.

Rating: A
This recipe is simple, and an easy introduction to the world of home brewing.

Oh, and P.S.: If you’ve been following the Spruce Beer Saga, there’s been a tragedy:

“With the sudden change in weather over here in Cleveland a drastic and sudden change has occurred with the Spruce beer. With a sudden drop in pressure a bottle has exploded! Inspection of the other bottles showed excessive pressurization and further investigation showed evidence of a Gusher infection. Little Bacteria were fermenting everything in site and leaving only chaos and terrible flavors in their wake. The cause of the infection hasn’t been determined yet. It seems like the product was ok through fermentation. But it’s unknown yet if it picked up it’s bugs during bottling.”

One thought on “History Dish Mondays: Ginger Beer

  1. If I were to attempt the Jumble beer version, how much molasses would you recommend adding to the recipe?

    I’m excited to try this! Thanks for posting :D

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