Drinks

How to Make Alcoholic Ginger Beer from Scratch

March 14, 2014

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Food52's Community Manager Catherine Lamb shows you how to make alcoholic ginger beer with everyday kitchen staples. Cheers to you!

Ginger Beer Recipe: Homemade Alcoholic Ginger Beer on Food52

There are two types of people in this world: people who like their ginger beer sweet, subtle, and unassuming, and people who like their ginger beer to kick them hard in the back of the throat. (I guess there are also people out there who don't like ginger beer, but for now I'm going to pretend they don't exist.)

You know real ginger beer if you've tasted it. The second you take a sip, it stomps on your tongue with steel-toed boots, taking glee in reminding you how spicy raw ginger truly is. 

Ginger Beer Recipe: Homemade Alcoholic Ginger Beer on Food52

My version of ginger beer is like the unfiltered, uncensored, hardcore stuff, but with a teensy little bonus: alcohol. While England has been sipping on alcoholic ginger beer for hundreds of years, America has just begun to discover this gem. Well, Brits, your secret's out.

More: If you want to booze up classic ginger beer, look no further than the Dark 'n Stormy.

In addition to its spicy, addictive taste and its boozy bonus, alcoholic ginger beer is also plain-old fun to make. If you dream of being a full-fledged brewmaster but lack the time, equipment, and beard, ginger beer is the perfect starting point. With only a jar, some pantry staples, and a few clean soda bottles, you can have a solidly delicious brew in only three weeks. It might take some experimenting to get it right, but the journey is half the fun. This recipe is really more like a set of guidelines -- you must follow your instincts. 

Ginger Beer Recipe: Homemade Alcoholic Ginger Beer on Food52

Alcoholic Ginger Beer

Makes several liters of ginger beer

2 1/2 cups (600 milliliters) warm, filtered (or pre-boiled) water 
1 1/2 teaspoons champagne yeast (available at your local brewing store or on the Internet)
Freshly grated ginger
Granulated sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
1 jalapeño, sliced (optional)
1 large glass jar
2 to 3 clean plastic soda bottles

Ginger Beer Recipe: Homemade Alcoholic Ginger Beer on Food52

First thing's first: Start by making a "plant" for your ginger beer. Stir the yeast into the water until dissolved. Add in 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger, 1 tablespoon sugar, the lemon juice, and the sliced jalapeño, if you're using it. Stir to combine. (The jalapeño will give your ginger beer that kick you can feel in the back of your throat -- if you don't want it that strong, feel free to omit it.)

More: Here's a nifty trick for peeling ginger with a spoon.

Ginger Beer Recipe: Homemade Alcoholic Ginger Beer on Food52

Pour the mixture into a glass jar -- one that's large enough for the liquid to fit comfortably, with a bit of extra space. Cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel and secure it with a rubber band. Place the jar in the warmest place in your house: next to your heater, near the refrigerator, or by a heat vent.

Ginger Beer Recipe: Homemade Alcoholic Ginger Beer on Food52

Every day for the next week you'll have to "feed" your plant. First off, feel the bottle -- it should be slightly warm. If it's too cold, your yeast will go into hibernation and stop working, and if it's too hot your yeast could die. They're a very temperamental bunch.

Take the towel off your jar and add another tablespoon of grated ginger and another tablespoon of sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then replace the towel and put your plant back in a warm place. Do this every day for a week -- just think of it as a babysitting job.

Ginger Beer Recipe: Homemade Alcoholic Ginger Beer on Food52

After about a week, you should see small bubbles floating to the surface of your plant. You can keep your plant at this stage longer: The more you feed it, the more concentrated the ginger flavor will become. Don't stress too much about measurements -- you can adjust your flavors later.

Homemade Ginger Beer on Food52

Now it's time to bottle! Think ahead to how many bottles of ginger beer you'll want to make. Make sure to use plastic soda bottles -- glass bottles could explode from carbonation.

Estimate how much water you'll need to fill these bottles two-thirds of the way full. Then, dissolve enough sugar into the water so that it tastes very sweet -- as sweet as soda. Don't worry about overdoing it; the sugar is there to act as food for the yeast, so most of it will get eaten up and turned into alcohol. You can always adjust the sugar content later.

More: Got extra ginger left over? Candy it!

Ginger Beer Recipe: Homemade Ginger Beer on Food52

Using a cheesecloth, strain the plant out into a large measuring cup or bowl. Next, use a funnel to add the sweetened water to the bottles until they are two-thirds of the way full. Add about a cup of the plant liquid to each clean, dry soda bottle -- more if you want your ginger beer stronger, less if you want it less intense. Stir with a chopstick to combine. You can dip your finger in and taste here to see if the flavor concentration is to your liking. If it tastes watery, add more plant liquid. 

Seal the bottles tightly with their caps and put them back in the same warm place where you once kept the plant. Squeeze the bottles daily to test how they're carbonating.

Ginger Beer Recipe: Homemade Alcoholic Ginger Beer on Food52

After a few days, they should become difficult to compress; when they feel like a rock and are impossible to squeeze at all, slowly start to unscrew the cap just until you hear hissing, but do not open it all the way. Whenever the bottle is impossible to compress, let out the carbonation, then seal it back tightly.

In a week and a half to two weeks, the yeast should have eaten up most of the sugar in the bottle. This means your ginger beer is ready to open up and taste! There's not a hard and fast rule for how to tell when this is done -- you've got to go by intuition and trial and error. If you have multiple bottles, open one up and taste test after a week and a half. Add more sugar or lemon juice if you think your ginger beer needs it.

Ginger Beer Recipe: Homemade Alcoholic Ginger Beer on Food52

Serve ice cold with citrus wedges and a rum float if you're feeling dangerous. Make sure to consume the whole bottle within 24 hours after opening -- feel free to enlist a friend or two for help. You should probably throw a party to show off your incredible brewing skills.

More: Top-notch ginger beer deserves top-notch ice -- here's how to make it.

Ginger Beer Recipe: Homemade alcoholic ginger beer on food52

It's impossible to gauge the alcohol content of your ginger beer, but it should be a bit less than that of a light beer. Enjoy!

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Catherine Lamb

50 Comments

Oli E. April 28, 2018
One of my bottles exploded. and ruined my mothers kitchen 😂
 
Jordan H. March 28, 2018
A bit less than a light beer?<br /><br />Pretty certain mine was stronger than a good Marlborough red! Not that I'm complaining...it made for a delicious evening!
 
Mike December 22, 2017
Ivr started making this for the first time today. I have grated enough ginger and combined it with the right amount of sugar to feed it for the week. Could anyone please tell me the benefit of feeding the plant daily instead of doing it all at once? Thanks in advance.
 
Gerlinde November 22, 2017
Hello, can someone please tell me if I can re-use the plant to start a new batch, what would I do and how long before this new plant is ready in that case? How much new yeast would I need to add? Sorry many questions.<br />Thanks, Gerlinde
 
Emi September 22, 2017
I've started the process about a week ago, but my bottle never got warm. I've just reread your post, and realized that I did not use warm water to dissolve the yeast with warm water! Is there any way to recover this batch, or do I need to start all over again?
 
Annika J. July 29, 2017
can i use my one gallon fido jar to make this and just let off the gas a couple times a day, please n thank you.<br />
 
Gerlinde May 10, 2017
Hi all, would really like to try this, but unsure how many litres this can make?<br />1.5 teaspoon of yeast according to the packet makes at least 20 litres, is this about right? Please help me<br />Also, I really like your post, looks beautiful and do-able with all the pictures and explanations, thanks
 
Jeff May 10, 2017
Hi Gerlinde - I've been experimenting with this recipe for about a year. I have been bottling it using 1 part ginger plant and 2 parts of sugar water. This recipe produces a very small amount. You'll end up with about three cups of the ginger solution, which makes a total of six cups of finished ginger beer. If you want more, there is no problem in increasing the recipe, as long as you maintain the same ratio of ingredients. I've made batches as large as 7 times the original recipe. Hope this helps = Jeff
 
Alicia December 18, 2016
Hi. I've just finished my first batch. I'm so amazed at how much carbonation has taken place. One question though...Do you siphon your brew before drinking it? Although it tastes great I have 'floaties'. Are these yeast?
 
Joe K. September 14, 2016
Hi, <br />Is there a reason for using the towel over jar method, or can I use a small plastic bucket with a flip on lid?
 
EmmJay April 2, 2017
Allows pressure that might otherwise build dissipate and keeps foreign yeast and other unwanted particles out of the plant.
 
Jeff June 30, 2016
Would there be any problem in doubling the recipe form the plant to make a larger batch?
 
David F. March 8, 2016
What if I don't know how to read instructions properly and put a lot of sugar and ginger in my plant?
 
Antony B. January 21, 2016
First time at making ginger beer,i added a couple of Scotch bonnet chillies,and boy the final result was a mind numbing explosion of ginger and alcohol,the finest drink i have ever tasted.Super recipe 5 star plus.
 
Catherine November 11, 2015
Hi, I have followed your recipe and made a really delicious batch of Ginger Beer. It turned out really well and was very spicy & gingery. It also had a very strong alcohol content, like tipsy off one glass (similar to wine).... All our friends loved it so I am almost finished making the 2nd batch. I bought a hydrometer to measure the alcohol content however I just learned that I need to measure the original gravity and then the final gravity to get the accurate alcohol content. Do you use a hydrometer to measure alcohol content? If you do, do you know if I can use it with the FG only to get an estimate on the alcohol content??? I am really interested in knowing what this batch is. Thank you!!! Catherine
 
Andy November 23, 2015
Unfortunately a hydrometer isn't going to help you if you are feeding the plant every day. <br />When you brew beer (or wine etc...) you add ALL of your sugar to start with, take a reading (Original Gravity - OG) and then a reading when you bottle (Final Gravity - FG)... BUT ALL the sugar needs to have been 'eaten' to get an accurate figure. You know this is the case when the FG reading is constant for 3 days in a row. So.... the only way you'll be able to do this with ginger beer is to add 100% of your sugar on day 1 - which is fine to do. So if you're going to feed 1 tbl spn for 1 week, add all 7 tbl spns on day 1. If you bottle and all the sugar hasn't been 'eaten', then you're alcohol content increases in the bottle as it carbonates. This is also why people blow up bottles, as they add too much sugar to the bottles, when there is already lots in their ginger beer plant already.
 
JoAnne Y. November 9, 2015
I started a batch (for my kids) that looks similar to this procedure but I don't want it alcoholic. How/when does it turn? Is it a time thing? Right now (3 days later) it's carbonated but I don't think alcoholic. Should I refrigerate it at this point to stop the "brewing process"?
 
Gemma R. September 3, 2015
does it have to be a glass jar I don't have one big enough however I do have a plastic one big enough
 
Atwood A. August 10, 2015
My Mum used to make ginger beer soda when I was a kid in Aus. Using the ginger beer "plant". I found a good alcoholic version in Boston by New City but cannot get it in AZ so I want to try this. However I would like to use glass bottles as for brewing beer, they do not explode so what would be the difference?
 
Jenna August 16, 2015
Whenever you use an active yeast culture to create your carbonation you run the risk of it exploding, whether it's beer, ginger beer, sparkling cider, whatever. This is because CO2 is one of the byproducts (along with alcohol) of the yeast "eating" the sugars. The more they "eat", the more CO2 is produced, the higher the pressure builds. <br /><br />I have personally never had it happen (knock on wood), but my sister-in-law had it happen just a few weeks ago, when temperatures spiked and even their basement (where it's normally cool enough store their homebrews) reached higher temperatures, causing an accelerated production of CO2. Keeping your brews chilly will cause the yeast to go at least somewhat dormant, minimizing this risk. <br /><br />All the same I don't recommend people start with glass their first couple of times. Get a feel for it first with plastic, or be prepared to check levels frequently (at least once a day, twice is better if you live in a warm climate or aren't sure how much priming sugar to add) with some test bottles and then get those suckers in the fridge as soon as your desired level of carbonation is reached.
 
Andy November 23, 2015
The real reason is that the sugar in ginger beer (and real beer) is converted to alcohol and C02 gas as it ferments. During fermentation all the C02 escapes as the plant is open (or bubbles through an airlock with beer). As soon as you bottle your beer the C02 can't escape and this carbonates your drink. Bottles only blow up if all the sugar isn't fully fermented (eaten) before you bottle. So if you bottle too soon you end up with too much sugar in your glass bottles -> too much C02 is generated for that bottle and then it blows. So to avoid this with ginger beer, you want to stop feeding the plant sugar for at least 3 days before you bottle. Then only add 1 flat teaspoon per approx 350ml (12OZ ?) in each bottle.
 
Rob April 21, 2015
Can+one+keep+feeding+the+plant+indefinitely+while+only+using+2/3s+of+it+at+a+time+for+the+fermenting+stage?+
 
Jenna August 16, 2015
Probably, yes :)
 
Morgan February 22, 2015
After the plant was finished fermenting, I noticed a viscous slightly brown cream-like substance at the very bottom of the jar. I didn't add it to my bottles, but I'd like to know if anybody has any clue what it is? I'd like to keep experimenting with this recipe and I'd like to know whether the addition of it would be good or bad for my beer? Is it yeast? Undissolved sugar?<br />Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
 
John F. March 12, 2015
It's sediment I presume. When you make wine you syphon the wine off into a clean demijohn leaving the sediment behind, which is discarded.
 
Will S. June 18, 2015
I believe it is yeast. It builds up as you ferment non alcoholic ginger beer too. From my experience if you add it to the bottles it will settle again. Just like some micro brew beers have the yeast at the bottom of the bottle. I just don't drink it :)
 
Joetown February 6, 2015
Could I carbonate it?<br />Either through using soda water or injecting a co2 cannister into the bottle?
 
Jenna August 16, 2015
Following these directions should leave you with a naturally carbonated ginger beer. If your bottle isn't closed tightly enough, the CO2 will escape, but you can just add a bit more sugar to get the yeast eating again and it will get you more CO2 in no time! Or, you could use something like a Soda Stream to inject CO2 (Forced Carbonation). That does have the advantage of giving you full control over the carbonation process. You can add soda water to a glass of the stuff...it will dilute the flavour (and the alcohol content), but I do sometimes like it a little less strong.
 
saltpeter January 11, 2015
I'm doing this this week... quite excited. Not sure if I get the math though... doesn't seem you can get "several" bottles out of this if there's 2.5 cups of plant liquid and you're supposed to put 1 or more cups of plant liquid in each liter bottle.