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I want to make a batch of alcoholic ginger beer. However, I know from past experience that one problem with ginger beer is that the bulk of the fermentation happens in the bottles, and I can't drink it fast enough: it gradually hardens and gets more and more bitter (and more alcoholic) until the last bottle is nigh-undrinkable.

What's a good way to prevent this from happening?

I gather that when making, um, non-ginger beer (is there a term for this?), fermentation is controlled by using a mixture of sucrose and lactose. Apparently the yeast will feed off the sucrose but not the lactose, so once the yeast has consumed all the sucrose fermentation stops but you still get a sweet flavour from the lactose. OTOH I have also seen ginger beer kits that have artificial sweeteners in them, probably for the same reason. I can't stand the taste of these; does lactose affect flavour? And would this work with ginger beer anyway?

Are there any other techniques I should look at? Obviously because the bottles are pressurised I can't take the lid off to add anything when I want fermentation to stop. Another thing that might work is irradiation, but unfortunately my fission reactor's on the blink.

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If you want to halt fermentation, this might help: homebrew.stackexchange.com/questions/958/… –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner May 31 '13 at 14:36
    
Yes, that does look promising. I just need to find a way of getting the tablet into a pressure vessel without letting the fizz out... –  David Given May 31 '13 at 23:08
    
I don't think you'll lose that much fizz if it's only open for the few seconds that it takes to put in the tablet. Irradiation might work if you ran it through a UV water filter a few times. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jun 1 '13 at 3:06
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2 Answers

I think if you want a sweet-flavored, lightly-alcoholic (under 10%ABV) beverage that is also carbonated, you're going to have to keg and force carbonate.

You might be able to slow the yeast down with refrigeration, but any that live will pick up and keep going if you ever remove your bottles from the cold environment.

The kits include non-fermentable artificial sweeteners to get around the very problem that you're having.

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Does lactose affect the flavour the way artificial sweeteners do? –  David Given May 31 '13 at 23:07
    
I can't speak to that... I've never brewed with it. –  baka Jun 3 '13 at 17:35
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You can ferment the ginger beer until it's completely dry and then sweeten it when serving. Make a simple syrup (boil equal weights of water and sugar until the sugar has dissolved). Put a small amount of syrup in the glass before pouring the ginger beer.

It's a bit more work, but aside from pasteurizing, I don't know any other way to get a sweet, low alcohol drink.

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Well, it's simple. And has the advantage that I can adjust the amount of sugar after the beer's gone hard. So dead handy; thanks. But still want to find a good way to do it properly! –  David Given May 31 '13 at 23:09
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