6/14/2004: Summer is back, at least in North America (this article gets lots of New Zealand and Australia visitors during our Winter) and time for more Ginger Beer brewing. I've tried a few experiments since last updating these pages and here's what I've learned along with a new recipe.
First off I tried using a champagne yeast instead of bread yeast. It seemed a lot slower to start and really didn't kick in with lots of C02 generation like we are used to. Since the resulting ginger beer wasn't as bubbly it was hard to judge if there was much, if any flavor improvement. I've gone back to using cheap and plentiful bread yeast, we've either gotten used to the flavor or I'm using less of it.
Second experiment was a batch of fermentation free Ginger Beer. Basically a syrup. I used two cups of water, a cup of sugar, and boiled it with the spices. At the end we had a jar of dense, sticky ginger beer extract that was stored in the fridge. My wife liked it because she could control the strength of it when mixing it with carbonated water (seltzer). It was lacking something, in my opinion, either not enough bubbles or I was missing the yeasty undertones. ":^)
The final and most recent experiment was with an almost-diet Ginger Beer. Since it's still a fermented ginger beer you can't really cut out the sugar completely or there won't be anything for the yeast to eat. As a bonus the yeast does eat some of the sugar so that means less to consume in the final drink.
Put everything but the yeast in a pot and bring to a boil. I don't add the ginger juice, but if you don't have a juicer you'll want to toss the chopped ginger into the pot. Once it is boiling I turn it down and let simmer for a long time. Ok, I completely spaced out about the pot and it ended up simmering for about an hour. Let me tell you that was some dark, fragrant water!
About the time I start the water I usually put a teaspoon or so of sugar in a cup with a 1/4 cup of warm water and sprinkle the yeast over it. Each time I make ginger beer I use less and less yeast, presumably in the hope that there's less yeast flavor (but it multiplies, so does that make sense?). The yeast starts re-constituting and eating the sugar while we wait for the spices to steep and then for the hot liquid to cool back down. Everything else follows the steps in the basic recipe a few pages back.
It takes a little longer for the bubbles to get going, either from the decrease in sugar or in yeast, but once it gets going it acts pretty much like any other batch. With the latest batch I let it ferment in the bottles a little over twenty four hours and the bottles were quite tight (pressurized).
What I ended up with was a nicely flavored, very bubbly Ginger Beer Lite with just a slight hint of sweetness. I think the fennel seeds and licorice root lend it a bit of smoothness and make it taste sweeter than it actually is. And, as you can see from the photo, it really generates quite a head.
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