Brewing Ginger Ale

I keep hearing that fermented foods are good for you, and I do like yogurt. I also like beer and wine – those are fermented foods…  right? 🙂

                    Black Bart

Black Bart

When I was a little girl we enjoyed camping in the Sierra Nevada Gold Country and on our way we sometimes stopped at a steak/hamburger joint called Black Bart’s.  The story I remember (no guarantees this is fact, just memories of good times from years ago) is that the restaurant used to be a saloon of sorts and Black Bart himself, a famous bandit at the time, used to frequent this establishment.  One of the drinks on the menu was sasparilla and another was ginger ale. Real brewed sasparilla and ginger ale.  But, because I was a little girl, I couldn’t drink it because it contained alcohol! Ginger ale with alcohol?  Well… of course.  Why do you think they call it ale?  The recipe I found called it ginger beer, probably because Americans forget that an ale is an alcoholic drink, unlike the chemically laden stuff you buy at the store to mix with your drinks.  And Sasparilla?  Well, that’s what eventually became known as root beer.  Beer!  Of course, commercial sodas sold in grocery stores worldwide do not have alcohol. I found several recipes online to make ginger ale and they all looked pretty easy, so I decided to dive right in.  All you need is some fresh ginger root (it’s actually a rhizome, but whatever), organic sugar and filtered water.

How to make ginger ale

All you need to make ginger ale – sugar, water and ginger!  Couldn’t be simpler.

This is the recipe I used – of course I tweaked it just a bit:

Make the Ginger Bug:

Home brewed ginger ale

This is about day 5. You can see the bubbles around the rim and in the middle after the bug has been agitated.

Day 1 finely chop up about 3 teaspoons of peeled ginger, add to 1-1/2 cups of filtered room temperature water and then add 3 teaspoons of organic sugar.  Stir to dissolve sugar.  Every day after add about 2 teaspoons of the finely chopped ginger and 2 teaspoons of the organic sugar and stir.  It’s actually best to stir twice a day.  Also, never use a metal spoon.  Apparently metal reacts with the acids in the ginger ale – and not in a good way.  By about day 3 or 4 you will see the mixture turn cloudy – that’s good.  Then, about day 5 or 6 you should be seeing small bubbles appear around the edges, especially when you stir or agigate the mixture.  By day 7 or 8 and at least by day 10 you should see a little bubbly foam rise up when sugar is added to the mixture.  Now the ginger bug is ready to be made into ginger ale!

Making Ginger Ale

Fermenting (brewing) the ginger ale. Notice the plastic tub, just in case the glass explodes!   Hmmm – it’s almost done!   I can hear it now…               ♪♫♪♪♫♫♪ Oh Susannah…  ♪♪♫♫♪♫♪

To make the ginger ale, first take care of your bug.  Strain the ginger bug through a cheesecloth or coffee filter into a large container (a 1 gallon container with a tight lid is perfect).  Wash out the original container the ginger bug was in and place the used ginger back into this jar.  Now add 1-1/2 cups filtered water, 2 teaspoons each of the finely chopped ginger and sugar, and you now have a new ginger bug. Feed it just like you did before. If you don’t want to make a new batch of soda every week, you can keep the bug in the refrigerator.  Just feed it once a week and it will stay alive.  Once you want to make soda again, take it out of the fridge, feed it, and in a couple of days it should be ready to go again. Back to the ginger ale – now add the juice of three lemons, 3/4 cup of your organic sugar and 1/2 gallon of filtered water to the container.  Seal the top down tight.  If you are using a glass container, as I did, beware that the pressure inside the jar could  cause the glass to explode!  Be sure to open the jar once a day to prevent explosions.  You can see from my picture that I used a Vlassic Pickle jar that had a metal lid, so I was careful to avoid letting the metal touch the ginger ale.  Also, the lid was one of those “pop top” type – like canning jars – and I was able to tell if there was a lot of pressure in the jar if the top was popped upward and I couldn’t push it down!  I also kept the jar inside a larger container – just in case. 🙂  Alternative you could keep it in a plastic container.  I personally prefer not to use plastic when possible. Let the ginger ale ferment for about 5 or 8 days.  You will know it’s ready when you get a lot of fizz upon opening the jar – just like soda!  Once it reaches that point it is ready to drink.  Put it into the refrigerator and in a few hours you will have yourself a nice cold refreshing fizzy drink.  And it’s good for you!

Brewing Ginger Ale

Ahhhh… A nice cold glass of freshly brewed ginger ale!  And it’s good for you!

Oh – about the alcohol.  All of the web sites say it’s negligible – less than 1%.  In fact, some over-ripe bananas may have more alcohol than the ginger ale when properly brewed.  You see, most alcoholic ales (or beer) are brewed for 6, 8 or even 10 weeks to get the alcohol content up. The ginger ale takes quite a bit less time than that – thank goodness! For my next experiment I am going to try making strawberry soda using the ginger bug.  Apparently, once you have a good ginger bug going, you can make all sorts of sodas, by adding different ingredients into the fermentation stage.   Also, once the bug is going good and strong you can substitute most of the sugar with honey.  It will give the resulting ginger ale a different flavor, but the resulting drink will be doubly good for you!

Ginger ale fermenting

This little piece of ginger may some day be a much larger plant with several pounds of ginger root – enough to keep me supplied with naturally carbonated sodas!

By the way – after making my second batch, I found that my last piece of ginger was trying to grow!  Poor thing.  I read (during my research on how to make ginger ale) that you can easily grow ginger (yes, even the stuff you get at the grocery store) and harvest enough every year to keep your ginger bug alive without having to buy more ginger.  Now that sounds pretty sustainable to me!  So, I took the last piece of ginger that was growing and placed it into a pot.  I sure hope it grows well, because I am liking this ginger ale! Have you ever brewed ginger ale before?  I know there are quite a few variations on growing the ginger bug, including some that boil the root and water first, then add the sugar; and others that add yeast (isn’t that cheating?)  This variation worked well for me, but I am always experimenting and tweaking recipes to make them better.  Do you have any suggestions? 001 Shared at these fun parties:  Freedom FridaysFriendship FridayFrom The Farm Blog HopEat, Create, PartyPinworthy Projects Party;Farmgirl Friday;  Friday Flash Blog PartyWeekend re-Treat; Family Fun FridayFriday’s Five FeaturesReal Food FridaysFriday FavoritesOld Fashioned Friday; Fridays Unfolded; Inspired WeekendAnything Goes LinkyShow Off FridayCraft Frenzy FridayWeekends Are Fun;Front Porch FridayCity of Links;  Super SaturdayShow Stopper SaturdaySimply Natural SaturdaysStrut Your Stuff SaturdaySaturday Sparks;Saturday Show & Tell;  Show and Tell SaturdaySpotlight SaturdayMy Favorite ThingsGet Schooled SaturdaySerenity SaturdaySimple Saturdays; Frugal Crafty HomeThat DIY PartyNifty Thrifty SundayDIY Sunday ShowcaseSnickerdoodle Sunday;Submarine SundaysSimple Life SundayThink Pink SundayHomesteader’s HopSunday Showcase, Clever Chicks, Homestead Barn Hop, Natural Living Monday,  Moonlight & Mason JarsThe HomeAcre HopShare Your Cup Thursday;  Home and Garden ThursdayFabulously Frugal Thusday;Simple Lives ThursdayMountain Woman RendezvousCatch A Glimpse PartyCreate it ThursdayTime Travel Thursday;Think Tank ThursdayGreen Thumb ThursdayKrafty InspirationHomemaking PartyTreasure Hunt ThursdayAll Things Thursday Inspire Us Thursday

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52 thoughts on “Brewing Ginger Ale

    • Good evening, Rachel! This was really a lot of fun to do! It was kind of like a science experiment. I was so excited when I first saw bubbles, but when I saw it actually fizz, I was over the moon! I would love to join you on Green Thumb Thursday – thanks for the invite.

  1. I am excited I love ginger ale and I know the corn syrup stuff is horrible for me. I want to try this for sure. Thanks for doing the leg work on finding a recipe 😉

    • Thank you, Bonnie! This recipe actually takes a lot less sugar than you would get in a conventional soda, and if you use organic, non-GMO sugar (most sugar beet sugar is GMO – stick with cane sugar), it is actually good for you! Let me know how yours works out!

  2. Wonderful! I make fermented fizzies in many different flavors, but I can’t get sarspirilla here in Australia. I’d love to see you try that from scratch. I grow ginger too.

    • Hmmm… I would love to make some sarsparilla, but it’s made with sassafrass root and wintergreen, two ingredients that I would have to order on the internet! However, I have seen some recipes for root beer that are made with more readily available ingredients like vanilla and anise. I have been thinking of trying that one. I would bet your ginger is absolutely lovely!

  3. Love this recipes. This is such a wonderful alternative to the sugary, chemical laden sodas that you buy in the store. Thanks so much for sharing on Real Food Fridays Blog Hop!

    • Hello, Marla. I agree – my husband really likes to drink soda and this is a great alternative to the store bought stuff. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Hello Vickie,
    it’s always a lot of fun to read your very interesting contributions, and thus again to learn something and try it out sometimes.
    I am happy to visit your blog regularly.
    I wish a nice weekend.

    regards

    Uwe

    • Thank you, Uwe! I enjoy reading your blog also. The new table you made is wonderful! I hope you and Angie have a great weekend.

  5. I tried to make ginger beer a few months ago but did not like the taste and I had no fizz. I am going to try your instructions and I like the idea of making different flavors. I am lucky and have plenty of ginger growing in my yard. Thanks so much for this great post.

    • I have seen recipes where you boil the ginger, sugar and water together first, and was wondering if that would actually kill any natural yeast on the ginger!? I have also seen recipes that use brewer’s yeast or even champagne yeast, but isn’t that cheating? I settled on this recipe simply because it made the most sense to me, even though I am new to fermenting! The carbonation I got is fairly good. It was actually better the day before I drank it. Apparently there is a learning curve to brewing, but I am learning! From what I understand, the taste and the fizz get better as your ginger bug gets stronger, so I can’t wait to try different recipes with it! Let me know how yours turns out.

  6. Hey Vickie, great job with the ginger bug and ale! I made this last summer but then forgot my “bug” in the fridge for a few months and it died 🙁 This is good inspiration for me to do it again, thanks!

    • Coming from you, Jon, this is such a compliment! I am just starting to experiment with this fermentation thing and I have to admit – I’m hooked! However, while I was watching the bubbles appear on the surface of the bug, I kept hearing “double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble” somewhere in the back of my head! Haha – I think I read too much Shakespeare in high school. 😉 Thanks for your comment and encouragement, Jon.

    • Yes, you should really try it! It’s really a lot of fun, especially when you see those first bubbles! Depending on your room temperature and the strength of the natural yeast in your ginger, it could be anywhere from 3 to 6 days, so keep with it. Let me know how it works out for you. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment!

  7. Agh! I have been wanting to try my own ginger beer, but ginger costs an arm and a leg, and I suck ant growing it!!
    Yours looks delicious! Well done!

    • Oh, I’m sorry! Yes, ginger is a tad pricey, which is one reason I decided to try to grow some myself. Of course, I may suck at it also! 😉 Maybe some day you can visit me and we can have a cup of home brewed ginger ale together.

      • Ooh yes! And I can swap some of your ginger germ for maybe my home made sourkraut or sourdough starter or something!!
        All we need is a magic door!

    • Thanks for pinning! I do hope you try it and let me know how yours turns out. The bug is the most important part of this whole process. You can either peel or ginger (as I did in this first recipe), or if you know your ginger is fairly clean and organic (that’s why I want to grow my own) use the peel also. In further researching, some say that most of the yeast is in the peel, so my next batch will have peel in it. Thank you for your comment, Helen!

  8. This sounds AMAZING! I am going to make this. Thanks so much for all the info. I may be back with questions along the way. Thanks for linking up at My Favorite Things Saturday!!

  9. The process sounds a bit similar to the way I make kombucha – and I use ginger in the kombucha….. I like the sound of this and will copy it off and hope to try it. Thank you for sharing this with us. 🙂

    • Kombucha! That is going to be one of my new experiments – along with sourdough! I figure, if I eat home made yogurt and cheese and drink home made fermented beverages (no icky added ingredients – just pure and simple), I should get a lot of those beneficial benefits that everyone is talking about. Here’s to having a happy tummy! Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  10. Hi Vickie,
    Just wanted to let you know that I have chosen your post on making you own Ginger Ale as one of my features this week on Real Food Fridays Blog Hop. Have a wonderful 4th of July weekend.

    • Wow – I am truly honored you chose this post as one of your features! Thank you. I hope your 4th is the greatest!

  11. OK This I have to try. And root beer! I used to make honey mead and it was pretty good. But I like ginger ale so making my own would be fun 🙂 Guess I need to see if I can grow ginger as I am sure Kristina can’t (Mz. Black thumb!).

    • Hey, Millie! Well, the jury is still out whether or not I can grow ginger either! Haven’t seen hide nor hair of it yet, but I am still hopeful. This has become a favorite of ours. Can’t seem to make the stuff fast enough! Thanks for stopping by.

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    • Hahaha – apparently the longer you ferment the stuff and the more sugar you add, the more alcohol you get! I’m not well versed in fermenting alcoholic beverages, but it sure makes sense! My next flavor to try will probably be blackberry, using a blackberry wort instead of the lemons, since the blackberries on our future homestead are just now starting to blacken up. Pray that we don’t poison ourselves! 🙂

    • Thank you so much Christine! You should really try this. Ray and I really like it! To be honest, though, when my mom tried it, she wasn’t very fond of it. She said it tasted a bit yeasty. If you do try it, let me know how it turns out for you!

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    • It really is awesome, Danielle. It tastes good, doesn’t have any chemicals, and it’s good for you. What’s not to love! Let me know how yours turns out.

  16. I just had to smile as I read this post, I started my own ginger bug. (my first) just a few days ago, but really like your childhood story, My recipe calls for 1 tablespoon molasses if using plain sugar. Cheers!

    • Oooo… Molasses! I’ve never seen a recipe with molasses! Let me know how yours turns out. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Hello John! I slipped over to your website and read your recipe for ginger beer – looks great! I agree that adding yeast just seems to muddle up the flavor at the end, and is totally not necessary. It’s amazing how many different ways there are to do this, and all of them seem to work to one extent or another. Like I have said, it’s great to have something so easy to make that tastes so good – and is good for you! Thanks for stopping by, John.

  17. I love Ginger Ale! I made my own for a long time but sadly became allergic to ginger! I also decided to grow my own ginger but I found that ginger is not so easy to grow in the desert. But I kept trying. What I have found is that ginger likes more tropical temps and more filtered sun, so now I grow it inside by a north window. I water it often with small amounts and am having good success. I use my ginger now to flavor Kombucha with that I brew for my family.

    • I put ginger in my kombucha also! It tastes reminiscent of ginger ale and is so refreshing! Too bad you became allergic to it. I think I am going to have trouble growing ginger here at our new homestead. It snows a few times in the winter and temps can get down into the mid 20’s. I am hoping that if I put the ginger in the greenhouse (though the greenhouse isn’t heated) it might have a better chance to survive. We’ll see. Living here is a lot of trial and error, and I am surprised at things that work and others that don’t. I hope to eventually build one of those Wikiups (underground greenhouse) so that my citrus, ginger, tumeric and stevia have a better chance for survival. Thanks for stopping by, Connie!

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