Sunday, March 28, 2010

first try at a ginger beer

Based on this ginger beer how-to I set out to make my first ginger beer. I simplified and modified the recipe a bit, and also doubled it to produce two gallons.

In three quarts of water I boiled for 30 minutes a cup of shredded/pulped ginger, 16 tablespoons of lemon and orange juice, and a cup of white sugar. It should have been two cups, I realized later.

I strained into five quarts of cold water, cooled in an ice bath to 80 degrees, and pitched half a teaspoon of Muntons ale yeast proofed in 3/4 cup of water.

It went into four two liter bottles. Upon sampling I was surprised by its lack of sweetness. That is when I realized that I forgot to double the sugar. I added 1/4 cup of corn sugar to each bottle, but did not taste again or take any gravity readings.

I think the flavor has more lemon than ginger character. It could just be that my ginger sensor is a little blown out right now since I was nibbling on it raw.

It's now resting at room temperature. I think I'll probably test one, two, three, and four days of fermentation.

2010-03-30 update:

All bottles were rock-hard in less than a day. The first bottle went into the refrigerator after 24 hours at room temperature. The second went in after 48.

The first two are pretty comparable. Carbonation is stronger in the second, and it may be just slightly more dry. I think I pick up the slightest hint of yeast and a touch more ginger bite in number two. All of those differences could be the effect of the effervescence, but they result in number two being more successful.

It's really pretty good. I don't detect any of the orange juice. The lemon is strong; I'd actually dial it back a bit and try the lime of the original recipe. It's far, far less sweet than the commercial ginger beer I have had most recently, Reed's Ginger Beer, which is so cloying as to make me queasy.

I don't think the degree of carbonation can actually increase much, so the next two bottles should give me a pretty good read on how the sweetness changes.

I wouldn't say that I can detect any amount of alcohol. A half cup of table sugar and a half cup of corn sugar per gallon gives an original gravity of only about [(3.5 oz 46 ppg + 3.5 oz x 42 ppg) x 1 lb / 16 oz], or 1.019. Even if it attenuated completely it would be less than 2.5% ABV, and I'm sure it will be less in actuality. This stuff should be only 80 - 90 calories per pint -- that's compared to 145 in 12 ounces of Reed's. This is quite a nice light summer drink.

2010-03-31 update:

Added number three to the tasting tonight. Absolutely massive carbonation, demanding several minutes of bottle opening ministrations. It wasn't quite chilled. One effect of this is that it kicks up all of the sediment, which probably affects the result.

That said, I don't actually notice much difference between two and three. Possibly a bit more dry. I'll have to try again tomorrow when both are equally cold. Number one is not entirely flat, but it's close to lifeless. Definitely dominated by the others.

I bought a bottle of Reed's Extra Ginger Brew. Bleah. It's like syrup compared to mine.

2010-04-02 update:

Tasting number four completed the flight. I compared to number two and it is assuredly drier. I measured the gravity of both. With temperature adjustment, number two was 1.014 and number four was 1.011. I don't know that I have a preference. Assuming that my original gravity estimate is correct, that would be about 1% ABV, or nothing to worry about if the boys want some.

I think it's pretty easy to experiment with the recipe in very small amounts. Unlike beer, I don't think that any yeast strain I'm likely to use is going to make much of a difference. Starting with a base of ginger and sugar it should be easy to incrementally add ingredients until reaching something that seems worth upscaling and bottling.

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