There are a lot of instructions available for making non-alcoholic versions of ginger beer, but for those who want to savor this beverage in its pure form you can try these instructions. Ginger beer was one of the most popular beverages in both America, Canada and Europe until 1920 (Prohibition) in America and 1950's in Europe.
I've always wanted to brew my own beer and or other drinks, but with the hop shortages that are going on I though that it would be fun to try a different style of beer/ale. The results were good.
The Beer/Ale that is produced is definitely alcoholic and I found it quite powerful which is partially due to the very high level of carbonation
Step 1: Ingredients
Since this is my first batch of ginger beer I'm going to keep it simple. I believe that you can add just about any spice you want to adjust the flavor, the most interesting that I've herd is adding mace or other peppery spices to bring out the zing a little more, but for the sake of simplicity I just going to use:
-Water --- Make sure that you use good quality water, and make sure that you have all of the chlorine out of it (either let it stand open to the atmosphere for about 24 hours or boil it)
-Ginger Powder --- I guess you could use real ginger root, but thats harder to use and ginger powered is not very expensive if you get if from the right place. - I got mine from the 'eastern store' its a small locally owned place under the local mosque. Have a look around your area I'm sure that you can find some international store. I bought about 2 cups of ginger powder for $2.50. (note the color of ginger degrades when exposed to sunlight, but according to the shop owner it retains it flavor.)
-Lemon Juice---from previous experience real lemons taste better, but I dont know how much real lemon juice vs bottled lemon juice will affect the final flavor - If you really want a lot of lemon flavor then use some lemon rind, the real 'lemon' flavor is in the oils in the skin
-Sugar --- regular stuff that comes in the bag, nothing special.
-Yeast--- I'm starting with bread making yeast, and seeing how that works....
-10 Rasins--- since they sit around for a while, while they dry they collect 'wild yeasts' which add a bit of uncertainty since you don't quite know what they'll do but I think that you gain a more robust set of yeasts......try it both ways...
Also needed is a teaspoon, a jar, a piece of cloth, quite a few ~12 - 20 oz soda bottles. Once you open a bottle you have to drink it all within about 24 hours or it will start to taste funny.
Step 2: Making the "PLANT"
The basic process of making ginger beer is to grow your yeast culture, called a plant. You then squeeze the juice of the plant into your sugary water, bottle it and let it ferment.
So... to make the plant: you'll need the jar (needs to be able to hold at least 600 ml ~ 20 oz) your ginger powder, some sugar and water and the lemon juice oh and also the yeast.
600 ml water - cold or room temp - if its hot you'll cook and kill your yeast.
1 tsp yeast
2 tsp Ginger powder
4 tsp Sugar - Provides food for the yeast to use and multiply
1/4 cup lemon juice (juice of 2 lemons) - provides an acidic environment that helps prevent other bacteria from taking over.
10 Raisin - not sure what these do, they may provide a source of wild yeasts or they may provide a wider range of sugars to get the yeast started. Either way they're fun to watch because you know your yeast is working if they start floating in a day or two.
stir all of this in the jar, cover the jar with some fabric or a paper towel and place jar in a warm area 75-85 deg F is the best (if it's below 65 ish the yeast will pretty much stop growing, and if it's above 100 they will slow down and at a little hotter they will start to die). A good warm place in winter might be next to your fridge.
Everyday for the next week feed your 'plant' with 2 tsp ginger powder and 4 tsp sugar - stir in, and recover
Within about a week your plant should be ready to use.
Step 3: Mixing the Beer
Now that your plant has had plenty of time for the yeast to grow and for the flavor of the ginger to diffuse into the water it is time to dilute it and put it into bottles.
This set is based completely on your personal taste, and how long your plant has been growing - the longer you've been feeding it the more ginger flavor there is...the good news is that if you get it wrong you can fix it later.
The process is to take ~1-2 gallons of 'clean' water (boil tap water) add sugar until it is sweet - like juice, maybe a little sweeter.
Now using a paper towel strain the plant liquid out of the rest and add the plant fluid to the sweet water.
Bottle the mix in the 20 oz bottles - only fill them 2/3 full because a LOT of CO2 will be produced and the bottles will explode if they are too full (air compresses more than fluid).
Place all of your bottles in an opaque rubber maid tub and place it in a warm area. Check it every day, squeeze each bottle and if you cannot compress it crack the lid and let off the pressure - the soda bottles will take ~100 psi before they explode, but if they do explode you will be cleaning sticky ginger juice off the walls for ever. Alternately you can get a fancy carboy with a water lock and carbonate your beer later.
Step 4: Savoring
Leave your beer until you think it is done... which depends on you but it will take at least 2 weeks.
I tried a bottle every once in a while and liked it once it was completely done fermenting all the sugar - had a dry flavor that went well with the ginger. You know that your ginger beer has reached this 'dry point' when you dont have to release the pressure of the bottles any more - but make sure that you don't let all the carbonation escape (if you do add more sugar).
Remember that more sugar = more alcohol.
Alcohol is the bi-product of anaerobic propagation of yeast so dont let oxygen into your bottles. But alcohol is also toxic to yeast so once the alcohol level gets too high the yeast will die off. Bread yeast is able to produce ~3-6% and the best yeast are able to survive in ~15% alcohol, with Ginger beer it is a toss up due to the introduction of wild yeasts.
I like my ginger beer chilled.
Step 5: References
Some cool history: http://www.fohbc.com/BandE_Article4.html
A recipe http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/pda/A634664
Another recipe http://thegreenman.net.au/mt/ginger_beer_recipe.htm
non -Alcoholic ginger beer - http://www.webtender.com/db/drink/1046