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.