Introduction: Alcoholic Ginger Beer
Recently, my girlfriend and I discovered hard ginger beer and decided it was delicious. There a couple versions for sale at BevMo, but it's pretty expensive stuff.
I do a lot of homebrewing, but had never made anything but beer. I thought this would be a great opportunity to branch out.
If you have never brewed before, don't worry! The yeast do most of the work. This ginger beer recipe is super simple and takes much less effort than all-grain beer brewing.
There is no "right" way to brew. I'll be presenting one way to do it, the way I did it. Where appropriate, I'll also give different options that you can use depending on what gear you have access to. Like many hobbies, it can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. There are a million gadgets you can buy, but in the end, you are just putting yeast in with a sugar, from which they make alcohol. People have been doing this for thousands of years, so don't overthink it.
Step 1: Ingredients:
For this recipe I used the following:
- 3.7 pounds of fresh ginger. If you have an asian market nearby, you might be able to find this as cheap as $.99/pound
- 6 pounds of turbinado sugar. Available here, but you should be able to find this locally.
- 6 lemons
- 6 limes
- Red star champagne yeast. Available here. One pack is enough for 5 gallons.
- Yeast nutrients(more on this later)
- Campden tablets to stop fermentation. Available here. (more on this later)
- Whirlfloc tablets to help with clarity. Available here.(more on this later)
You will also need a pot and a fermentation vessel. I'll give some options when we get to that point in the instructable.
Step 2: Prepare:
First a word on pots, or as we call them, boil kettles. You will need a kettle big enough for a 5 gallon batch. This means 5 gallons, plus the water you will lose while boiling, plus some headspace to prevent a boil over. Somewhere around 32 Quarts is good for our purposes. The kettle should be stainless not aluminum. You can spend $30 buck on a pot or $300 bucks on a pot. In the end, they both are used to boil water and wort. you can even make a decent 15.9 gallon kettle by cutting the top off a sanke keg. This is a good size for 10 gallon batches.
Other optional features:
- valve at the bottom
- volume markings up the side
- sight glass, temp gauge etc
You can make great beer without any of these features.
Generally the more you spend on a kettle, the thicker the walls and bottom.
An inexpensive turkey frying pot with a propane burner is a great way to go if you are just getting started. These can sometimes be found for really cheap right after Thanksgiving.
So to start off, let's heat up some water. I used about 6.5 gallons, expecting to lose about 1.5 gallons to the 60 minute boil. I use a propane burner outside. I have heard of people using a gas stove burner inside, but i have not tried this. Cover the pot and allow the water to heat to a boil while the ingredients are prepared..
Prepare the ingredients:
- Wash the ginger in the sink. You do not need to peel it.
- Drop the ginger it in a food processor. I used the shredding disc. I had to clean it out twice because the holes got clogged. Ginger is really fibrous. If you don't have a kitchenaid food processor, chop it up any way that is convenient.
- Juice your lemons and lime
- That's it. Simple, huh?
Step 3: The Boil:
Once the water is boiling, you can add the ginger and the sugar. I added the ginger in my home-made hop spider which is really just a paint strainer bag held in the middle of the kettle with some metal bits. It makes it easy to take the ginger out after the boil. Think tea bag, vs loose leaf. It is in no way required or necessary.
After the ginger is added, Slowly stir in the turbinado sugar. What you do not want, is to dump the sugar in all at once and have it burn on the bottom of the pot, which will impart a flavor.
Once the ginger and sugar are in, set your timer for 60 minutes. It's a good idea to watch the kettle for a minute or two, as it may foam up an boil over. Be prepared to lower the heat if you see this is about to happen or it will make a bit of a mess. Unlike regular beer, I did not have a problem with this. You may want to dial down your heat a little bit to a more gentle boil. I had mine going full throttle and ended up with only 4.5 gallons after 60 minutes instead of 5 gallons. This means more alcohol per pint(yay!), but less pints(boo!) Normally, when brewing beer, I have to dial the heat down a bit to prevent a boilover and I attribute my missing half gallon to not doing this.
While your brewing you can be cleaning out the fermentation vessel. I use PBW first to clean and then Star-San to sanitize. I leave the Star-san in until right before I use the fermentor. Refer to product directions. One of the only things you can REALLY do to screw up a brew is not to clean your fermentor. When the wort is sitting at room temperature, it super attractive to both yeast and bacteria. Don't give bacteria a head start! Anything from a bucket with an airtight lid, to a glass carboy, to a commercial or custom fermentor can be used to ferment your beer. The main requirement is that it be clean, that no nasties can make their way into it, and that the gas pressure created by the yeast can exit the vessel. An airlock accomplish this, but a piece of tubing with the end underwater in a bowl of star-san, will also work fine.
And now back to the boil: The last minute or so, you can throw in the whirlfloc. This will help "clear" the beer. It does not effect the taste and is not required. You can also add the yeast nutrients if you are going to. Consider this a multi-vitamin for your yeast.
Step 4: The Cool Down and Pitch
I like to cool my wort as fast as possible. You can use an immersion chiller or a counterflow chiller, which is what I have. If you don't have a chiller, dump it into the fermentor until it reaches room temp.
I use a little spray bottle with star-san and water to spray any surfaces or tools I am touching at this point. Until the yeast gets going, your wort is vulnerable to nasty bacteria.
Once the wort is in the fermentor, toss in the yeast and stick in the airlock. By the next morning it will be bubbling away happily. If you want, you can take a before and after fermentation reading to calculate the alcohol content. Mine ended up at 9.5.
After days or weeks the fermentor will stop bubbling. At this point I added a campden tablet to kill the yeast and then back-sweetened with simple syrup. If you do not back-sweeten, the ginger beer will be VERY dry. The champagne yeast is much more aggressive then the ale yeasts I am used to and will feed on every bit of sugar in the wort.
At this point I kegged the ginger beer and let it carbonate for 4 or 5 days. Overall, it was very gingery, which I liked, but I feel the citrus was lost in the fermentation. If I do it again, I will add the citrus after fermentation, when I keg.
If you enjoyed this, please check out my other instructables