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Ginger ale vs. ginger beer

My mother in law gave us a big bag of ginger, some of it had sprouted, ready for planting, but there was plenty of pieces, so I decided to make ginger ale, no, ginger beer, I couldn't decide, so I made one batch of each to compare.  I can't wait to grow my own ginger so I can make these regularly (have planted the left over ginger in a large pot).

Ginger beer
Following the instructions in Nourishing Traditions, I grated lots of ginger.  In a jar I put 1.5 cups of rainwater, 2 teaspoons of ginger and 2 teaspoons of white sugar, put the lid on and left it on the bench.  I added 2 teaspoons each of ginger and sugar every morning for a week.  After a few days I could see bubbles forming (that was an exciting start to the day!).

Day 1
Day 3 - see the bubbles?

After a week, the bug was ready, and I was supposed to make it up to 8 L, adding sugar and lemon juice, however, I wasn't sure what vessel to use, as ginger has a reputation for explosiveness!  My husband had the bright idea of using one of our beer fermenters, but they are 20 L, so we decided to make it up to 20 L with extra sugar.  After a couple of days the fermenter hadn't started bubbling (so much for the explosion risk!) and we both worried that it wasn't working, so we added a packet of ale yeast that we had in the fridge.  Still no bubbling.  After a week my husband poured it into a keg and "gassed it up" using the CO2 bottle that we have for beer making.  With the keg in the beer fridge, its pretty convenient to pour a jug of ginger beer, however I don't think we really made it properly!  It tastes sweet and gingery, with only a hint of  alcohol or yeasty taste.  I want to try this one again without fiddling with the recipe.....

making the ginger beer in the fermenter

A jug of ginger beer (after I drank some!)

Ginger Ale
Ginger ale was much quicker to make and brew.  I just put 1.5 L of rainwater in a jug with 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 grated ginger and 1/4 cup whey and left the jug on the bench for 3 days, before putting it in the fridge.  The result is a very sweet, gingery drink, without any fizz.  I drink it diluted about half with water, and it is a lovely refreshing drink.  I think I prefer the ale, as it was quicker, less mess, didn't have to remember to feed a bug, and I felt that the benefits of the lactic acid bacteria were greater than with the ginger beer.  If you don't have whey from cheese making, you could use kefir whey (and if you don't have kefir whey, you should get some kefir!).

Day 1

Day 3 (after straining)

Do you make ginger beer?  Or ale?


  1. I made it years ago and it was good with a lot of ginger flavor but it would blow an old style thick coca cola bottle in half so I must have done something wrong or didn't drink it fast enough. I don't remember the recipe but got it out of a book, I think it said ginger ale. I hope you can figure it out as it is a good drink.

  2. I'm growing ginger for the first time this year as well...albeit in a much different environment than you are!

    I love the idea of Ginger Beer and think I'm going to try your recipe myself. Maybe a glass demi-john fitted with an airlock might suit when you bulk it up to 8 litres?

    And funnily enough, I'm sitting here having a glass of homemade Melon & Ginger wine while I'm writing this. Ginger is certainly in the air!

  3. I have tried so many ginger beer recipes... I remember my mother making ginger beer with a "ginger beer plant" and it looked exactly like kefir grains. I really would like to get some and try them. I made a very small quantity of the last lot and it worked out fine - the last bottle erupted upon opening, but the little that was left tasted good. Luckily I was in the garden when that happened.

  4. Sounds like you and my neighbor would have fun together. He brews everything from scratch. Beer, ginger beer, mead, Wine, you name it he makes it. I think its awesome helping him and the by product is great in the compost bin!

  5. So interesting! I liked Ginger Water Kefir, must make it again. Wish we could grow ginger more readily down here...

  6. I made the NT recipe for the ale, it was salty! Maybe the whey ? Bleh! It sat in my frig for months & is now been on my counter for a month. I need to get rid of it but want to find a recipe just as good as Reed's Extra Ginger Brew.

  7. Thanks for the comments! The pressure build up does make me a little nervous about using glass, I think I'll stick with our beer fermenters for now.

    Tanya, that melon and ginger wine sounds nice. I planted by ginger in pots after I saw it on your blog, hope it works!

    I haven't tried any water kefir yet, but we are building up too much milk kefir, so maybe that's something else to try.

    I've given up trying to match what I make to commercial products, just trying to get used to the new tastes that I'm creating. The other day my husband said that my pickles tasted like McDs and he thinks they are great, should I be offended? haha!

  8. My mum gave me a very easy recipe for ginger beer (dictated it over skype actually!) a few months back. It makes just over 5 litres and can be bottled after about 3 days in the pot, drinkable in a week.

    It uses yeast grainules not a bug, I would really like to try a bug beer one day, just not using London rain-water :) I put it in glass as i have some 1 litre lemonade bottles with the old-school rubber stopper tops. No explosions yet, I always make sure to leave about 4 fingers of air at the top of the bottle and have been lucky so far. I do leave the bottles outside in a covered bucket though, just in case :) They make the most wonderful popping sound when you break the seal and it is lovely and gingery (I double the ginger-root to satisfy my gingery tastes)...

    Home made ginger-beer is great fun.


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