Recently, I indulged myself in a quick bit of fermenting. One of my favorite magazines, Imbibe, had a recipe for homemade ginger beer. Currently, that recipe isn’t up on their website (they have one that is a bit of a cheat since it uses a CO2 cartridge). I’ll reproduce it here with my changes though it is worth picking up the issue to get it yourself. Indeed, it is very much worth getting yourself a subscription. The magazine addresses all sorts of drinkables, from coffee to spirits.
4 oz fresh ginger, roughly chopped
2 quarts water
1 C demara sugar (or use white sugar with a bit more molasses)
1 tbsp molasses ¾ cup lime juice (I used the stuff in the plastic bottle, you obviously could use fresh)
¼ tsp champagne yeast (I use Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast, the same stuff I use in my mead)
Take ginger, 1 quart of water and pulverize in blender. Mix this with sugar and molasses in a pot over medium high heat to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and let cool to around 80 degrees F.
Strain the liquid through a cloth filter (I suggest either the cheesecloth that looks like muslin, or a couple of layers of the thinner webby stuff.) Squeeze to get out as much of the liquid as possible. Pour this into a two liter bottle (I got mine from saving one from the club soda I keep on hand.)
Add the lime juice and remaining quart of water to the bottle. You might not need all of it because you want to be about 2-3 inches from the top. Sprinkle the yeast onto the surface of the liquid. Then squeeze the bottle to bring the liquid up to the neck and screw the cap on tightly. Gently tip the bottle to mix in the yeasties.
Let the bottle sit for about 12 hours at room temp, around 75 degree F. If your room is cooler, it’ll take longer for the yeasts to wake up. The bottle will puff out and get firm when you try to squeeze it. Then put the bottle into the refrigerator. Drink within a week. Use some common sense and relieve the pressure if it seems too much by opening the bottle occasionally; plastic bottles can become little bombs, or geysers, if you aren’t careful. It is a bit cloudier than store bought, but tastes great. It’s not quite as spicy as some brands, but those are generally so spicy I can’t drink very much of them. This version, I can happily drink 16 oz with no problem at a sitting.
At this point, I bottled my ginger beer into my beer bottles and capped them. They seem fine two weeks out and are still carbonated. There is, by dint of the use of champagne yeast, a tiny amount of alcohol in this, but I’m guessing quite a bit less than, say, Nyquil (a alcohol based cold medicine here in the states). (Addendum June 7, 2014: if you bottle your ginger beer, open it over a sink. It has a tendency to bubble out of the bottle. It also goes well with Bluecoat Gin, a nice citrusy gin.)
We mixed with with some Lunazul Tequila Anejo, our favorite. It gives the ginger beer a nice earthiness, accentuating the “rootiness” a bit. In tribute to the classic ginger beer cocktail, the Moscow Mule, I thought to call this a Jalisco Jackass or maybe a Balaam’s Ass. (yes, I do know that the term “mule” in the cocktail’s context is not the critter.)
On the beer front, we did try another of Dogfish Head’s historical brews, Kvasir. It strikes me as like a Belgian beer, with a certain tartness from the berries in it. It doesn’t have that lactic funk that Belgians have. We just drank it alone but I can see that it could be tasty with the foods that Dogfish Head recommends.