Ginger beer is a type of carbonated alcoholic beverage or soft drink, flavored primarily with ginger, lemon and sugar. It originated in England in the mid 1700s, and it reached its peak of popularity in the early 1900s. The original recipe requires only ginger, sugar, and water, to which is added a gelatinous substance called "ginger beer plant". Fermentation over a few days turns the mixture into ginger beer. Lemon may be added.
Instead of using the ginger beer plant, some other form of live culture may be used to produce fermented (real) ginger beer. This is often baker's or brewer's yeast, but can also be a culture of lactic acid bacteria, kefir grains, or tibicos. Ginger beer is fizzy due to carbon dioxide. The alcohol content when produced by the traditional process can be high, up to 11%, although it is possible to ferment ginger beer in such a way as to produce little alcohol. Ginger beer may be mixed with beer (usually a British ale of some sort) to make one type of shandy, and with Gosling's Black Seal rum to make a drink, originally from Bermuda, called a Dark 'N' Stormy. The soda version of ginger beer is the main ingredient in the Moscow Mule cocktail.
The beverage produced industrially today is often not brewed (fermented). Such ginger beer is carbonated with pressurized carbon dioxide, does not contain alcohol, and is sold as a soft drink. Ginger beer is similar to ginger ale except that it has a significantly stronger ginger taste (often described as ginger ale with a "kick" to it). Other distinctions, vis a vis ginger ale, are the cloudy appearance (which is traditional) a predominately citrus sour taste base, and the spicy ginger bite.
Ginger beer was first brewed in the 1700s, and the brewed, alcoholic, drink became very popular in Britain and North America, with, in 1935, 3000 breweries in Britain, 300 in the U.S. (which had been affected by the Prohibition law), and 1000 in Canada.
Ginger beer plant
Ginger beer plant (GBP) is a symbiotic mixture of microorganisms which must contain the yeast Saccharomyces florentinus (formerly Saccharomyces pyriformis) and the bacterium Lactobacillus hilgardii (formerly Brevibacterium vermiforme). It forms a gelatinous substance that allows it to be easily transferred from one fermenting substrate to the next, much like kefir grains and tibicos.
Some modern sources and yeast-based recipes speak of GBP, but it is just a simple yeast culture rather than the original. The original may be found from several commercial sources or from yeast banks. There is also an active Yahoo discussion group dedicated to "the real traditional Ginger Beer Plant" and members of that group may share excess plant material.
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- Making Ginger Ale At Home
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- Making Ginger Ale from Scratch
- A Simple Ginger Beer Drink Recipe