Ginger Beer - Zero-Waste Chef (2024)

I am not advocating anything illegal here. I merely want to point out thatunless authorities ban ginger, sugar and water, anyoneunder the age of 21 or living in a dry state such as Tennessee can make alcoholic ginger beer pretty easily.

Ginger beer tastes like grown up ginger-ale with a spicy kick that burns the back of your throat in a pleasant sort of way. I haven’t actually measured the alcohol content (apparently I need a hydrometer) but I would guess by my ginger beer’s effects that it comes in around the low to mid single digits.

Ginger Bug

To make ginger beer, you first need to make a ginger bug, a starter that will ferment your drink and transform ordinary ingredients into delicious bubbly goodness. I have read ginger beer recipes that call for commercial yeast and they probably taste good but I prefer to ferment everything in sight via themicrobes present on food, in the air, and on my hands. Have you watched the Portlandia clip “We Can Pickle That”? My younger daughter says I’ve crossed that line.

You’ll find my instructions for ginger bug here. Basically, you grate up a tablespoon of ginger, combine it with a tablespoon of sugar and 1 cup or so of water and feed your bug more ginger and sugar daily for about five days until it bubbles vigorously, smells yeasty and the ginger floats (notice the floating ginger in my bug in the pic below). At that point, you can start your ginger beer (or other fermented drinks like this lemonadeor this hibiscus soda).

Ginger Beer Ingredients

  • Water. I don’t have a problem with chlorine in my water but if you do, fill a large vessel with water half a day or so before you’ll brew your drink and the chlorine will dissipate. You want to do this because chlorine kills microbes. Without microbes, your drink will not ferment.
  • Sugar. I usually use evaporated cane sugar for my ginger beer. Any type of plain sugar will work.
  • Ginger. I have messed up ferments by adding too much salt, byfermenting them too long (mushydill pickles anyone?) or by just neglecting them and failing to notice problems like a mushy top layer (at least you can scrape that off and fix it). Butonly once did aferment refuse to bubble to life—my attempt at pickled ginger. I later read in The Art of Fermentation that non-organic ginger may be irradiated, which kills the microbes. I must not have used organic.
  • Lemon (optional).Occasionally I toss in some lemon ifI have it on hand. Add a few tablespoons or to taste.
  • Measurements. I roughly follow aratio of 1/2 cup sugar : 4 cups diluted ginger-water : 1/4 to 1/2 cup ginger bug liquid


1. Cut up five or six inches of organic ginger into 1/8-inch pieces. You may want your ginger beer less or more spicy than mine.You don’t have to peel the ginger but I do so I can then makecandied ginger out of the ginger pieces. I follow this Alton Brown recipeandflavor kombuchawith my candied ginger.So good!

2. Place the ginger and three cups or so of water in a pot. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

3. While your ginger simmers, stir your ginger bug up. Be sure to incorporate all the white yeasty residue at the bottom of your ginger bug container into the liquid. This is microbe gold. Strain out about 1/2 to 3/4 cup liquid from your ginger bug.

4. When the ginger has finished simmering, strain out the ginger pieces. My liquid reduced by half.

5. In a large vessel, combine sugar and ginger water. I added 1 cup of sugar. After the sugar dissolved, I added about 7 cups of room temperature water to dilute and cool off my very strong ginger water. You can make a big vat of ginger water in a large pot but it will take a while to cool down. YOU MUST LET IT COOL BEFORE PROCEEDING TO THE NEXT STEP. Heat will kill your microbes and your ginger beer won’t ferment. No beer for you!

6. Once your mixture has cooled to room temperature, add any lemon juice and the liquid you strained off your bug.

7. Pour into clean, flip-top bottles. Set them aside for a few days before transferring to the refrigerator. Drink them within a week or so.

If you let your ginger beer ferment longer, it will contain more alcohol. But be careful! The carbon dioxide building up in the bottles can cause them to explode. I have never had this happen (and hope I never do) but to be safe, I usually put my bottles in a cupboard to contain any possible disasters. I usually “burp” my bottles every couple of days—open them by rocking the lids back and forth gently and slowly to let out carbon dioxide.

After you brew ginger beer a few times, you’ll get a feel for how much ginger and sugar to use and how long to ferment your drink. I suggest you take notes to help figure out what works best in your kitchen.

Happy brewing!


Ginger Beer - Zero-Waste Chef (2024)


Is ginger beer zero proof? ›

However, most commercial ginger beers available today are non-alcoholic. These versions undergo a brewing process that ensures the alcohol content remains below 0.5% by volume, classifying them as non-alcoholic beverages perfect for serving at zero-proof bars.

Is ginger beer good for your gut health? ›

Drinking ginger beer can help reduce inflammation, promote digestion, relieve nausea, and even help in the prevention of cancer. Ginger beer is a less-sweet alternative to ginger ale, and the popularity has skyrocketed among Americans, especially millennials.

Why is ginger beer so expensive? ›

It is expensive to do it, and ginger juice makes such a big component that to make it it's our highest cost per production beer that we make.

Is there any alcohol in ginger beer? ›

Today, most commercial ginger beers contain no alcohol or less than . 5 percent. Ginger beer's spicy-sweet flavor profile makes it an excellent mixer and it's a key ingredient in classic co*cktails. Because it contains no alcohol, ginger beer is also a go-to ingredient for spirit-free drinks.

Why is it called ginger beer if there is no alcohol? ›

So Why Is It Still Called Ginger Beer If It's Not Really Beer? That has to do with how it's made. Making non-alcoholic ginger beer still involves aspects of brewing, but fizziness is added using forced carbonation rather than fermentation.

Why is it called ginger beer if it's not beer? ›

Ginger beer is a drink originating from England, where sugar, ginger, water, and sometimes lemon were fermented and brewed with a starter culture called the ginger beer plant, resulting in a brew with about 11 percent alcohol. This also explains how the word “beer” is part of the name.

Is ginger beer anti-inflammatory? ›

It is a powerful anti-inflammatory, which helps your body maintain a healthy, youthful appearance and help prevent disease. It is also a powerful anti-cancer agent.

Can too much ginger beer hurt your stomach? ›

If a person has bloating, gas or indigestion, the carbonation and sugar may make it worse. Even diet ginger ale can be harmful because our bodies may not digest artificial sugars as well.” The same can be said for ginger beer.

Is ginger beer healthier than ginger ale? ›

Ginger beer and ginger ale do not differ greatly in terms of nutritional values. Ginger ale is the lighter option, with 125.1 calories and 32.3 grams of sugar per can (12 fl oz). Ginger beer is a bit heavier but nevertheless very close to ginger ale, with 140 calories and 35 grams of sugar per can or bottle (12 fl oz).

Which ginger beer has real ginger? ›

Reed's Original Ginger Beer

This world-famous, Jamaican-inspired recipe is crafted with REAL fresh ginger root, natural fruit juices, honey and spices.

What is the best ginger beer to drink straight? ›

Most Versatile – Bundaberg Ginger Beer. A classic, you can't go wrong with Bundaberg. A perfect balance of sweetness and spice, and clearly made with lots of fresh ginger. It's one of the most enjoyable ginger beers to drink straight, but also makes a great base for mixed co*cktails.

Can you drink straight ginger beer? ›

Packed with flavor, it's good enough to be enjoyed on its own, or mixed to make a variety of different co*cktails.

Can kids have ginger beer? ›

Yes, it's non-alcoholic and safe for children.

Does ginger beer contain caffeine? ›

Real ginger beer is mildly alcoholic. It has a strong ginger taste, but little to no caffeine. Ginger ale is so dilute that compared to ginger beer it has almost no ginger taste.

Can kids drink ginger beer? ›

Yes, it's non-alcoholic and safe for children.

What are zero proof drinks? ›

Zero-proof indicates a beverage with no alcohol involved. In the past, ready-to-drink zero-proof options were pretty much limited to seltzer, soda or juice. Instead of these bases, zero-proof drink involves a non-alcoholic spirit alternative, which can achieve the flavor and complexity of a co*cktail without alcohol.

Is ginger beer low alcohol? ›

The British Excise Regulations of 1855 required that the drink contained no more than 2% alcohol, and usually it was far less potent: hence ginger beer became popular with children. By the start of the 20th century it was produced commercially in almost every town in the United Kingdom.

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