Brewing Up Some Ginger Beer

>> Monday, January 31, 2011

Batch #1 - 2/1/2011

I've been researching ginger beer recipes the past couple weeks. A lot of basic recipes call for powdered ginger rather than fresh ginger. This seems to be more for the sake of convenience as most brewers seem to go with fresh ginger on follow-up batches. The consensus seems to be that powdered ginger is more "warm" while fresh ginger is more "spicy". After looking over several recipes I went with the following which should yield about two liters.

150 grams fresh ginger
250 grams table sugar
2 liters of water
Juice of three lemons
Ginger Beer Plant

Method: I peeled the ginger and ran it through a juicer. It seemed to be a little hard on the juicer so next time I'll probably try using the blender. I collected the pulp from the juicer and put it into a stainless tea ball. This was then steeped in 2 liters of water on the stove for about 10 minutes. I then pressed the liquid out of the ginger pulp. I dissolved the sugar in the saucepan and then cooled the water to about 76 degrees. I then combined all of the ingredients in a large jar. This will sit for about 48 hours before I transfer it to a 2 liter pop bottle where it will condition until it's carbonated.

I was pleased with the way this turned out. It had some very nice ginger flavor, aroma, and spiciness. The lemon juice provided some pleasant citrus notes. I also enjoy the nice tang that I assume comes from the GBP. It was a little too much ginger for my wife's taste, but she isn't a big fan of commercial ginger beer so I didn't expect her to rave about my homemade brew. I think it might benefit from a touch more sugar next time.

The Dark and Stormy cocktail was very good as well. I'm not a big cocktail fan, but I really enjoyed this one. It's pretty light yet flavorful without being overly sweet. I think these will be a hit at summer BBQ's.

Washing the GBP was a little bit of a pain. I had a lot of ginger sediment that settled out after a day or two. I think I didn't quite peel the ginger as well as I should have because there seemed to be a few bits of it amongst the GBP. So long story short, it took a while to remove the sediment and bits of peel.

Batch #2 - 2/26/2011

After the successful first batch, I made a TLC batch and set my 64 ounce mason jar in the window on a paper towel.  Long story short, I forgot my dog loves to chew/shred paper towels so about an hour after placing it in the window it came crashing to the ground.  I was able to save some from the broken shards of glass but I'd guestimate I lost anywhere from a third to half of the GBP.  I've been nursing it along with TLC brews ever since.  It seemed to be recovering well so I kicked off another batch today.  I basically used the same recipe as batch #1 except I scaled it down by half.  This time I cut the ginger into thin slices and tossed everything into a saucepan for a quick 10 minute boil.  A lot of the recipes I've found don't include a boil but the sanitary beer brewer in me can't help it.  After cooling the brew I poured it through a strainer onto the GBP.

Update  Batch #2  This one turned out very well too.  I didn't do a side by side comparison, but using fresh ginger slices didn't seem to cause any problems flavor-wise.  Since it was a lot easier to remove the thin slices than the ginger puree, I think this is the method I'm going to stick with.

Batch #3
I can't remember exactly which day I brewed this one but I used one lemon, one lime, and one small orange for my citrus juices.  I think this one was my favorite so far.  Spring can't get here soon enough as far as I'm concerned.   

Batch #4 Recipe

Ginger Beer Recipe from Matt on Yahoo GBP Group

2l water
200g white sugar
juice of 1 lemon
5 tbsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put everything except the vanilla in your brewing container and leave
for 2-5 days, until a frothy head begins to form on the liquid. Siphon
off the liquid, leaving the sediment and plant behind, into a large
container. Taste, and add more sugar if needed. Add the vanilla and
siphon again into bottles (optionally through muslin to remove any
excess ginger and yeast powder). Seal and leave for 24-48 hours to


Ginger Beer Plant

>> Sunday, January 30, 2011

Back on August 31, 2006, Basic Brewing Radio did a podcast with Raj Apte on the topic of Ginger Beer Plant (GBP). The plant portion of Ginger Beer Plant isn't referring to the green leafy variety, it's actually more along the lines of a factory. GBP is a symbiotic organism consisting of yeast and bacteria in the form of a gelatinous colony. Ginger beer was a very popular soft drink back in the 1800's especially in England and the USA. Most families brewed their own using GBP. The story goes that GBP was passed down from mother to daughter and father to son much the same way that sourdough starters were passed on. I really like most of the commercial versions of ginger beer and in addition to brewing beer I like to make homemade soft drinks with my kids, so the idea of making my own ginger beer was intriguing.

Raj referenced as a good source in the US for GBP...unfortunately I waited too long as it appears this site is no longer up and running. So I spent a few hours researching the internet for a different source. That said, if you're interested in genuine GBP you must use a reliable source. There are a lot of unscrupulous and/or ignorant people out there that are trying to pass off yeast and kefir grains as genuine GBP. These will be able to produce a fermented beverage but they are not authentic GBP. So if you're interested, I'd recommend ordering from Jim Macdonald at Jim is in the UK but will ship GBP anywhere in the world. There is also a GBP group on Yahoo that has a lot of useful info if you're interested in brewing your own ginger beer.

My GBP arrived yesterday and I'm really looking forward to the first batch. Right now I'm doing a TLC batch consisting of 1 liter of water and 100 grams of brown sugar. Brown sugar is less refined than table sugar and it's reported that GBP appreciates the extra vitamins and minerals in brown sugar. So I'm using the brown sugar for TLC batch after it's long journey from the UK , but I'll probably use refined sugar and/or honey for the one's I'll be bottling and drinking. The reason is when brewed with brown sugar the resulting product is a bit more murky looking.

One thing I'm looking forward to trying is a cocktail known as a Dark and Stormy. This is the official drink of Bermuda and is made with dark rum, ginger beer, and lime. I don't normally go for cocktails especially when good beer is available, but I love ginger beer so this seems too good to pass up. A related cocktail is the Moscow Mule which is made with vodka rather than rum. Although GBP is typically used to brew soft drinks, there is a recipe floating around for an alcoholic version with an ABV of almost 9%. The flavor profile is said to be similar to a sipping whiskey, so I may try this at some point as well. So long story short, I'll probably be posting some ginger beer experiments in the near future.


DIY Beer Line Cleaner

>> Monday, January 17, 2011

I found this DIY Beer Line Cleaner in the BrewBoard a couple years ago. This is a pretty handy and inexpensive gadget for cleaning your keg lines. Cleaning your beer lines is important to avoiding off flavors and for an overall happy draft system. I usually clean mine every time I swap kegs and/or before we have company over. I haven't seen much documentation regarding this trick, so I thought I'd do a little write-up on it. You'll need the following:

(1) Carbonator Cap
(1) Empty 2 liter plastic pop bottle
(1) Flat file, sand paper, or some other abrasive

A Carbonator Cap is a ball lock fitting valve that replaces the cap on a 2 liter soda bottle. It's intended to pressurize the pop bottle so that you can transport your homebrew with minimum loss of carbonation. They're available through most LHBS and online. Prices vary but you should be able to find them for $15 or less.

You'll have to make a slight modification to the Carbonator Cap to use it as a beer line cleaner. Gas posts are slightly larger in diameter than liquid posts. Gas QD's can fit liquid posts, but liquid QD's can't fit gas posts. In order to be able to connect both gas and liquid QD's to your Carbonator Cap you'll have to slightly reduce the diameter of the post. You don't need to remove much material...just enough so the liquid QD will fit. I used a mini flat file and made a couple passes around the outside of the post.

  1. First, carefully removed the O-ring.
  2. Grab your abrasive of choice and remove some of the material from the post. Try to keep the pressure consistent so you remove material evenly all the way around the post. Test after each revolution and stop when the liquid QD fits snugly.
  3. Clean off any residue and reinstall the O-ring.

Below is a close-up of the section where you need to remove material.

When you use this as a beer line cleaner, you'll do the following:
  1. Fill the pop bottle with a cleaning solution (mixed per the manufacturer's instructions) and cap it
  2. Pressurize the pop bottle with CO2 using the gas QD. I usually fill mine with one quart of cleaning solution and pressurize to 12 PSI. Remove the gas QD.
  3. Attach the liquid QD for the beer line you intend to clean and invert the pop bottle.
  4. Open the tap until the cleaning solution pushes out any remaining beer and flows clear.
  5. Close the tap and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes. Repeat for the rest of your taps.
  6. Thoroughly rinse out your pop bottle with clean hot water. Pressurize it as above and use the hot water to flush the cleaning solution from each of your lines.
  7. I usually follow up the hot water flush with a sanitizer flush, but this is optional.
That's all there is to it.


Firestone Walker's Double Barrel Ale

>> Sunday, January 16, 2011

My in-laws got me a gift certificate to More Beer for Christmas. In addition to several gadgets, I ordered Firestone Walker's Double Barrel Ale kit which is part of their Brewmaster's Series. I searched the Internet a bit and used a mash schedule of 145 for 60 minutes followed by a step at 155 for 15 minutes which is supposed to be based on the same schedule used by Firestone Walker. This brew is aged on oak chips to simulate the aging in oak barrels that the commercial brew goes through. I've been wanting to try an oaked beer for a while now. Below is the recipe:

6.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) UK
4.00 lb Pale Malt, Maris Otter
0.63 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 75L
0.38 lb Munich Malt
0.13 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L
0.13 lb Chocolate Malt, Pale
1.00 oz Williamette (60 min)
1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent (5 min)
1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent (1 min)
1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent Dry Hop
2.00 oz Oak Chips (Primary 4.0 days)
1.00 oz Oak Chips (Secondary 12.0 days)
1.00 items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 min)
1 Pkgs British Ale (White Labs #WLP005) - 1 liter starter made made 4 days in advance on stir plate

Brewing notes: I tried whirlpooling again, this time without any screen or filter on the pickup tube and it worked fine. I think this is the method I'll go with in the future as long as I'm not using whole hops. I used stainless steel tea balls to contain the oak chips. These were loaded with the oak and placed in my vegetable steamer for about 15 minutes to sanitize. A lot of people say this isn't necessary but I'd rather be safe than sorry.

Tasting notes:  I picked up a commercial bottle and was able to do a side by side tasting with this one.  The commercial version was noticeably maltier than mine.  The color was very close.  The commercial version was much brighter whereas mine was fairly cloudy.  I preferred the maltier commercial version to mine however I'd still describe it as a so-so beer...nothing I'd go out of my way to find a drink again.  I was expecting something similar to Jamil's No Short Measure (Ordinary Bitter) but with some oak character; it definitely paled in comparison.  I'd give this one a C 


Counter Pressure Bottle Filler

I got a gift certificate for Christmas from my in-laws and I ordered a Counter Pressure Bottle Filler from More Beer. I used it Saturday for the first time and it is awesome. I highly recommend this to anyone that kegs. It's great if you plan on entering your brew in competitions. It's also a great way to share beer because you have little loss of carbonation. I typically send growlers home with friends but the beer tends to go flat pretty quickly. This piece of equipment allows you to package your product similar to how the pros do it.

The counter pressure bottle filler allows you to purge the bottle with CO2, then fill it under pressure. It's a little bit messier than traditional bottling but since you're bottling under pressure (rather than via gravity feed) you can do it in the sink, so it's really a non-factor. More Beer has a great little tutorial that can be found by clicking here.

On a side note, I filled about a dozen bottles, including the last of my Pliny the Elder clone that I brewed back in 2009. I'm guessing it's due to the elevated hop levels, but this beer has aged very well. The only thing I really noticed was the hop aroma had diminished some, but I was noticing that back when it was about 6 months old.


Dry Stout

>> Sunday, January 02, 2011

Yesterday I brewed Jamil's Dry Stout recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. The picture above has nothing to do with the dry stout recipe...but it is what you might find if you google for a picture of dry this case something to keep a stout sportsman dry.

For this brew I used Simpsons Golden Promise, Briess Flaked Barley, and Briess Roasted Barley (300 SRM). I was planning on using a different variety of Roasted Barley (500 SRM) but the LHBS was all out. Per Jamil's instructions, the Roasted Barley was ground very fine, almost to a powder. Hops are East Kent Goldings and yeast is White Labs WLP004 with a 24 hour starter on the yeast stir plate.

Brewing notes: I was high on my starting gravity (1.048). I got a new false bottom for Christmas and my evaporation rate seemed a bit higher than normal, so I think both of these contributed to the higher gravity. I added about three quarts of sterilized water to the fermenter to bring the volume up a bit. This was the first brew session in the garage. It was still cold but much warmer than being outside, especially when it came time to clean up.

Update 1/16/2011: I kegged this one today. My CO2 tank also ran out and I noticed it was time for a hydro-test, so it will be about a week before my tank is refilled and ready to go. I prime most of my kegged beer anyway so I'm probably two weeks out before it's ready to drink.

Tasting notes:  This one is very good as well.  Since I had to use the lighter roasted barely, it was definitely not quite as dark as I would have liked but the flavors are great.  This is a keeper for sure, B+/A-