Ottawa

Kimberley’s Homebrew Hijinks: Ginger Ale

IMG_1966What comes to mind when you hear the words “ginger ale?” Is it a familiar green can or bottle? Maybe it’s the sweet, fizzy stuff you get the morning after a particularly wild night to soothe your stomach. Maybe it’s what you use to toast the New Year instead of champagne. In any event, ginger ale is stunningly easy to make at home, and it’s what we’ll be making this week!

As far as fermented drinks go, ginger ale is relatively young. Some of the first recipes for ginger ale and ginger beer (its stronger, cloudy cousin) originated in 18th-century England, though ginger has been in use as a medicine since as early as 500 B.C.E., in China and India. What we’re making today is known as a “golden” ginger ale – dark, sweet, and with a strong ginger flavour. It is typically consumed on its own, while “dry” ginger ale is more of what you would find used as a mixer – less sweet, with less of a pronounced ginger flavour. Ginger ale is often made with a culture known as a ginger bug or ginger beer plant, but in this recipe the culture we’ll be using is much simpler: a little yeast will do the trick just fine.

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The ingredients are simple. You’ll need:
30-60 grams of ginger (this varies depending on how much heat you want in your ginger ale, use more for more of a kick)
150 grams sugar
7.5 cups of water
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
⅛ teaspoon active dry yeast
2-liter bottle with a screw-top (think soda bottle) or carboy and airlock (airlock optional)
a funnel
if you’re fancy/precise, a thermometre

Grate your ginger using a microplane or fine grater. If, like me, you are lazy, you can also pulse your ginger in a food processor or blender. Combine with the sugar and ½ cup of water in a small pot over medium-high heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Turn off the heat, cover and allow the mixture to steep for at an hour or more. Study. Read. Watch some Netflix.

After about an hour has passed, strain the mixture through a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl. Squeeze to make sure you get all the juices out.  Set the bowl in the fridge, uncovered until the mixture reaches room temperature (this is where the thermometer comes in handy.)

Pour the syrup through a funnel into your bottle or carboy, top up with your water and add the yeast and lemon or lime juice. Cover and gently shake or swirl to combine. If you have a carboy, put the airlock on now or simply put a cap on it and leave it for at least 48 hours, venting once a day. It will be ready to drink after 2 days, but the longer you leave it the less sweet and more fizzy it gets. This also increases the alcohol content, if that’s how you roll. After 48 hours, it is still quite low in alcohol.

For an even simpler, completely non-alcoholic version, you can use the syrup you made to flavour seltzer or soda water.

If you want to play with flavours, try adding a sliced-open vanilla bean when you make your syrup, or double down on your earthy taste and healthy roots and try grating a little turmeric in with your ginger.

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