Ginger Beer Is the Bomb

Homemade brew makes for delicious cocktails. Just be sure it doesn’t explode first.

By Christopher Werner January 25, 2010 Published in the February 2010 issue of Seattle Met

MAKING GINGER BEER is a cinch. Storing it can be more complicated. Let the concoction settle too long in glass bottles and the pressure will build and build until—boom!—the bottle bombs explode, spraying shrapnel everywhere.

Well-known Seattle bartender Jamie Boudreau, now at Knee High Stocking Co., makes ginger beer from turbinado sugar, water, lemon, ginger root, peppercorns, cream of tartar, and champagne yeast. It’s the yeast that makes things tricky: Leave it around too long and you’ll have a mess on your hands. Once you’ve mixed the brew, let the concoction sit covered in a warm place (70 degrees is ideal) for 24 to 48 hours, then siphon the liquid into plastic bottles, which make gauging readiness easy. If you squeeze the plastic and it doesn’t budge (think of an unopened two-liter bottle of soda), the beer is about to blow.

Or, says Boudreau, use empty Voss water bottles. They’re made of thick glass and sealed with a large screw cap, so “the chances of an explosion are slim.” Allow at least three inches between the liquid and the cap, and for the first three days twist the cap occasionally to relieve some pressure.


Recipe courtesy Jamie Boudreau

6 oz ginger root (to taste)
1 lemon
20 peppercorns
1½ lb raw or turbinado sugar (or more to taste)
½ oz cream of tartar
8 pints boiling water
1 package Champagne yeast

Roughly chop the ginger. Peel the lemon, removing only the outer waxy layer, and squeeze the juice into a bowl. Place the ginger, lemon rind, peppercorns, sugar, and cream of tartar into a large pot. Pour in boiling water add lemon juice, and stir well. Allow to cool to about 21° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit). Remove a little of the liquid and mix with the yeast, then stir the yeast mixture into the pot. Cover the pot with a clean cloth (ensuring that the cloth will not come into contact with the liquid) and secure with string or elastic. Leave in a warm place 21° C (70° F) for 24 to 48 hours.

Strain the solids out of the liquid using a fine cloth. Pour the ginger beer into strong bottles and seal with a cap. (Boudreau uses empty Voss water bottles). Ensure that there is at least 3 inches of space between the top of the liquid and the cap.

Store the bottle in the fridge. Once a day for the first three days, twist the cap to release some gas. The beer should be ready to drink after four days (and will improve with time, becoming more dry). If beer becomes too dry, add more sugar (to taste) and stir to dissolve.

Try the ginger beer in a Cablegram cocktail, invented in 1934 by Patrick Gavin Duffy, from New York.

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