A bottle of Bundaberg “non fiery” ginger beer.
Ginger beer is a carbonated drink flavored primarily with ginger and sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Brewed ginger beer originated in Yorkshire in England in the mid-18th century and became popular in Britain, the United States, and Canada, reaching a peak of popularity in the early 20th century.
Brewed ginger beer was brought to the Ionian Islands by the British Army in the 19th century, and is still made as a local specialty known as “tsitsibira” by villagers in rural Corfu. Today ginger beer is almost always produced as a soft drink. Ginger beer and ginger ale as soft drinks have been moderately popular in many parts of the world since they were introduced.
The original recipe requires only ginger, sugar, water, lemon juice and a fungal-bacteria symbiote known as a ginger beer plant. Fermentation over a few days turns the mixture into ginger beer.
Forms of live culture other than the ginger beer plant can produce a fermented ginger beer. Cultures used include brewers or baker’s yeast, lactic acid bacteria, kefir grains, and tibicos. Brewing ginger beer generates carbon dioxide as in beer. The alcohol content, when produced by the traditional process can be high, up to 11%, although ginger beer is usually brewed with much less alcohol.
Brewed ginger beer often includes other flavorings, prominently lemon or lime juice. These juices are not merely ornamental, however, as they establish an acidic pH balance for the solution; this helps in both protecting the ginger beer from other cultures, as well as facilitating sugar inversion to increase the availability of the more readily metabolised fructose and glucose. Other, more strictly flavoring-specific, elements have often included: citrus zests; cayenne pepper and other hot spices; and admixtures from other brews such as nettle or dandelion beers.
Ginger beer plant
Ginger beer plant (GBP) is not what is usually considered a plant but a composite organism consisting of a fungus, the yeast Saccharomyces florentinus (formerly Saccharomyces pyriformis), and the bacterium Lactobacillus hilgardii (formerly Brevibacterium vermiforme), which form a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). It forms a gelatinous substance that allows it to be easily transferred from one fermenting substrate to the next, much like kefir grains, kombucha, and tibicos.
The GBP was first described by Harry Marshall Ward in 1892, from samples he received in 1887. Original ginger beer is made by leaving water, sugar, ginger, and GBP to ferment. GBP may be obtained from several commercial sources or from yeast banks. Much of the “ginger beer plant” obtainable from commercial sources is not the true GBP as described here, but instead is yeast alone. This is not legally false advertising because there is no regulation defining GBP.
Alcoholic ginger beer
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Brewed ginger beer is sold in the UK. Crabbie’s were the first on the market in 2009, followed by Stoney’s and others. It is usually labelled “alcoholic ginger beer” to distinguish it from the more established commercial ginger beers, which are not brewed (fermented), but carbonated with pressurized carbon dioxide.
Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer
First introduced to the US in April of 2012 by St. Killian Importing (based in Everett, MA). First launch market was Massachusetts, where Jim Lowe launched the brand in key On-, and Off-premise retail accounts. After that New York, Connecticut, Virginia and Main started selling the brand.
The ginger beer soft drink may be mixed with beer (usually a British ale of some sort) to make one type of shandy, or with dark rum to make a drink, originally from Bermuda, called a Dark ‘N’ Stormy. It is the main ingredient in the Moscow Mule cocktail (although in some cases ginger ale is used as an alternative, where ginger beer is not available). Another variation is a mix of three bar shots of Canadian (rye) whisky to four parts Crabbies Alcoholic Ginger beer, to make a cocktail called The Angry Teacher. This drink originated in Canada in the early twenty-first century.