Ginger Beer

When the weather turns cold it’s time to pull the last of the season’s ginger, and that also means it’s time to make ginger beer! This is a fun and relatively fool-proof recipe from the essential book Wild Fermentation by the guru of ferments, Sandor Katz.

ginger bug.jpg

Ginger Beer
From Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz

This Caribbean-style soft drink uses a “ginger bug” to start the fermentation. The ginger bug is simply water, sugar, and grated ginger, which starts actively fermenting within a couple of days. This ginger beer is a soft drink, fermented just enough to create carbonation but not enough to contribute any appreciable level of alcohol. If the ginger is mild, kids love it.

TIMEFRAME: 2 to 3 weeks

INGREDIENTS (for 1 gallon):
3 inches or more fresh ginger root
2 cups sugar
2 lemons


Start the “ginger bug”: Add 2 teaspoons grated ginger (skin and all) and 2 teaspoons sugar to 1 cup of water. Stir well and leave in a warm spot, covered with cheesecloth to allow free circulation of air while keeping flies out. Add this amount of ginger and sugar every day or two and stir, until the bug starts bubbling, in about 2 days to about a week.

Make the ginger beer any time after the bug becomes active. (If you wait more then a couple of days, keep feeding the bug fresh ginger and sugar every 2 days.) Boil 2 quarts of water. Add about 2 inches of ginger, grated, for a mild ginger flavor (up to 6 inches for an intense ginger flavor) and 1.5 cups sugar. Boil this mixture for about 15 minutes. Cool.

Once the ginger-sugar-water mixture has cooled, strain the ginger out and add the juice of the lemons and the strained ginger bug. (If you intend to make this process and ongoing rhythm, reserve a few tablespoons of the active bug as a starter and replenish it with additional water, grated ginger, and sugar.) Add enough water to make 1 gallon.

Bottle in sealable bottles: recycle plastic soda bottles with screw tops; rubber gasket “bail-top” bottles that Grolsch and some other premium beers use; sealable juice jugs; or capped beer bottles. Leave bottles to ferment in a warm spot for about 2 weeks.

Cool before opening. When you open ginger beer, be prepared with a glass, since carbonation can be strong and force liquid rushing out of the bottle.