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recent homebrewer and even more recent SE member. Hoping for a little advice...

I've been searching and searching for a ginger beer with a strong, warm burn. I had some in Canada and have been unable to find anything close since, so I decided to try and brew my own.

I've seen some recipes that add jalapeno or other peppers, but that seems like cheating! Is there a better way to increase the "burn"? I'm not looking for the quick citrus bite- I want the one that comes up 15s later and grabs you by the throat! Is there a technique? Does it come down to finding "hot" ginger? Or is the "float the peppers" method the way to go?

FWIW, the recipe I'm about to try uses champange yeast (appeals to me b/c I don't want a sugary sweet GB) and adds a few slices of jalapeno to give it the burn (which, as I said, seems like cheating).

Thanks in advance!

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I can't say for sure, as I've never made ginger beer per se, but I have used it in beer before.

According to Wikipedia, the main chemical component of fresh ginger's pungency is gingerol, which, when pure, actually scores 60,000 Scoville Heat Units. On drying or cooking, part of the gingerol becomes shogaol, which is more than twice as hot (rating 160,000 SHUs).

So if you want alot of heat/bite, you'd probably want to cook the ginger for as long as is feasible with your recipe. Also (if you want to avoid ginger powder, which should definitely give you more heat) you could grate and dehydrate the fresh ginger yourself to increase the heat (dry in a low oven, probably) before brewing with it.

I believe mature ginger roots have more pungency than do young ones, too.

Also, here's an article about maximizing flavor extraction from ginger, just for extra kicks.

EDIT: According to Harold McGee, cooking the ginger will decrease the pungency, while drying will increase it. No mention of the effects of cooking the ginger after drying it, so you might have to do some experimentation to determine whether you should cook the dried ginger while brewing, or if you should add it on the cold side.

  • Thanks Franklin, good tips. They led me to a couple articles that mentioned that the Scoville rating actually decreased with cooking (from 60k to 37k), but then shot up to the 160k value when dried. – Max O'Lydian Jan 28 '15 at 23:37
  • Cool, mind sharing the articles? – Franklin P Combs Jan 29 '15 at 2:08
  • This one mentions losing some heat when ginger is cooked, and this shows that the Scoville score jumps way up after drying. The second link has further links explaining the chemistry a little more. – Max O'Lydian Jan 29 '15 at 21:27
  • Whoops- that first link is the one you had in your answer! Well, the second one is interesting too! – Max O'Lydian Jan 29 '15 at 21:30
  • One more for you, this is from Harold McGee's On Food And Cooking, which is the primary source cited by both the Wikipedia article and this one. So it looks like drying is the real way to up the heat. Now I wonder if you'd be better off cooking the dried ginger, or extracting it without cooking... – Franklin P Combs Jan 29 '15 at 21:59
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I made a steamer, put shredded ginger root in the secondary. I used about a pound, it came out pretty strong.

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I made a 5 gallon batch of extract pale ale and juiced 2.5 lbs of ginger, which was added to the brew and boiled for 30 mins.

This brew has the sneaker heat you're looking for. Or at least, it does when i brew it.

Re: yeast strain, I used an ale yeast and the brew isn't sweet, but it does have some body. Certainly not a dry ale by any means.

  • Thanks- I'm trying a pure ginger-bug fermentation, as well as one using champagne yeast. From what I understand, the champagne yeast will give me a very dry brew, which is what I'm looking for. – Max O'Lydian Jan 28 '15 at 23:40
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Ginger by itself has a burn to it--since you'll be brewing with it try a little slice raw. Adding peppers would definately kick up their own fire and could be great, but you'd be surprised how hot ginger alone can be.

I've got a batch of this getting close to finishing. Tons of ginger burn, and about 11% alcohol. This is for a 3-gallon batch.

3 gallons water
3x lemons zested + juiced
3x limes zested + juiced
1lb grated ginger (washed, skins left on)
5lb white sugar
champaign yeast (I used Lalvin EC-1118)
  1. Boil the water, dissolve the sugar
  2. Take a couple tablespoons aside, cool it to warm, and proof the yeast in it
  3. Add all the ginger + fruit
  4. Give it a 10-15 minutes gentle boil
  5. Cool and aerate like normal
  6. Primary will be 4+ weeks at 70-degrees

I got everything but the yeast at a little inexpensive asian market, about $10 for the batch. In my batch I left all the ground ginger and fruit stuff in primary, if I did it again I'd use a hop-sock to keep them all in a large teabag for easy removal.


Follow-up: This recipe originally called for 6lb of white sugar, my batch struggled to finish and bottle-carbonate so I lowered the amount to 5lbs. If you can force-carb then 6lbs should be fine.

Also, filtering the ginger bits out was a little tricky. I'd recommend the hop-sock and a bucket primary for easy removal--and possibly pulling it out after two weeks rather than leaving it in the full time (not sure if it would make a difference but might help keep the flavors crisp). To get it out of the carboy I wrapped the end of a racking cane with sanitized cheesecloth and suck-started a syphon (I tried an autosyphon with terrible results).

  • I just made a 2 gallon batch according to your recipe. I smells great, fermented dry, I have transferred them to jugs with airlocks. What would be the next steps prior to priming and bottling? I am planning on a fizzy, dry, alcohol drink. Thanks. Q – Quentin May 11 '15 at 21:21
  • Glad you liked it so far, I updated my answer with a few notes. My batch didn't fully finish and struggled to bottle-carbonate; if possible I'd highly recommend force-carbing. Otherwise just batch prime and bottle as usual--if your FG was comparable to beers then any carb calculator should be find to use. If your FG is on the high side then play it safe and go for a lower volume of CO2 to avoid bottle bombs--carb for a couple weeks at room temperature then fridge them up and drink them down. – STW May 12 '15 at 13:38
  • Mine finished very dry so priming should be okay. I did use a strainer bag for the ginger and citrus rine which made clean-up a snap. I have always use some yeast nutrient in any wine or beer that I have made in the past and accordingly I think it helped the fermentation as it only took about 3 weeks to go completely dry. It's going to have some geddy-up as we say and I'll have to adjust the alcohol in the future batches if this proves a little on the strong side. – Quentin May 12 '15 at 14:00
  • Good to know about the nutrient, after mine finished high I thought about that being part of the issue. The brewer that shared the recipe with me also advised sweetening it up with sugar to taste, but that was from a keg (no worries about bottle bombs as long as the keg stays chilled). Adding simple syrup when you open a bottle would be the safe approach, I suppose. It definately is a drink to be careful with--packs a lot of kick but goes does very, very easily (especially on a summer day). Cheers! – STW May 12 '15 at 15:34
  • Cold crashed for a little over a week, yeast dropped nicely. Primed the batch with corn sugar, bottled in nice strong Duval bottles. Now the hard part...waiting – Quentin May 17 '15 at 19:19

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