What Is The Difference Between Ginger Ale & Ginger Beer?

Oct 27, 2015
Ginger Ale & Ginger Beer
Is there a difference? Yes. The biggest difference between ginger beer and ginger ale is that ginger beer is fermented and ginger ale is simply carbonated water that's been flavored with ginger. You will find that ginger beer has a more stout and robust flavor than ginger ale and it's all in the process of production. Lets explain this a little further.
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Ginger Beer:

Ginger Beer
Photo by: bloglovin

You may remember your mother giving you ginger ale to ease an upset stomach. This was not a new remedy at all. As far back as 500 BC in India and China, Ginger was recognized for it's health properties, primarily as a great treatment for gastrointestinal distress. Sometime during the Victorian era in Yorkshire England, they discovered that ginger could be used to brew an alcoholic beverage and Ginger Beer became all the rage. By combining sugar, ginger, water, and a starter culture, they could produce a stout and spicy concoction that would get you lit. So in the case of indulging in too many libations and feeling nauseous, the cause could also ironically be the cure. Ginger Beer was most popular in Britain, the United States, Ireland, and Canada, but reached it's peak of success in the early 20th century and began to dwindle in popularity after that. Fast forward to modern times, the name "ginger beer" is not entirely correct anymore, as most commercial ginger beer contains no alcohol. You can still find ginger beer that is alcoholic, Crabbie's still makes the boozy stuff. If you plan on having a Moscow Mule or Dark and Stormy, you are going to need some ginger beer, so why not use the alcoholic kind?

Now let's say you want to brew up a batch of ginger beer for yourself. Home brewing is all the rage right now and you can get a taste of the Victorian Era right in the comfort of your own home. It's actually really easy and the result is delicious. If you are hosting a party and plan to serve moscow mules, this is a great idea on how to impress your friends with your fancy shmancy home brewing techniques. Here's How:

This recipe makes about 2 quarts

INGREDIENTS

  • Ginger, peeled
    1/4 pound
  • Sugar
    1 cup
  • Fresh lemon juice
    1½ tbsp
  • Active dry yeast
    1/4 tsp
  • Water
    2 quarts
  • A pinch of salt
    -

EQUIPMENT

  • Microplane grater (Microplane= a fancy word for a ginger grater)
    1
  • Funnel
    1
  • Clean 2-liter plastic bottle with cap
    1
  • Mesh Sieve
    1

DIRECTIONS

  • Grate enough ginger using Microplane (fancy word for ginger grater) to measure 3 1/2 tablespoons of grated ginger, then put the grated ginger in a mesh sieve set over a bowl to collect juice.
  • To collect the juice, we use a smaller bowl to fit inside the strainer and push on it a bit. After you have extracted your juice, you can throw away the grated remains in the sieve, all we need is the juice. For the juice, we will need 3 tablespoons ginger juice. If you have any left over, you can put in the fridge for a later use, or use it make another batch of ginger beer.
  • Now take your handy dandy funnel and put it in the CLEAN two liter bottle. It doesn't have to be fancy, just clean. So rinse out an old coke bottle or something.
  • With your funnel in place, add your sugar, yeast, salt first (add all the dry ingredients first so they don't get stuck to the funnel). Then add your 3 tablespoons ginger juice and the lemon juice.
  • Fill bottle with water, you can just use plain old tap water. Some brewing purists will say to use special water but we rate that by Victorian standards, tap water is sufficient and probably much cleaner.
  • Leave about 1 1/2 inches of space at top of the bottle. This is a very important part. You need a little space at the top to allow the yeast to do it's work. When yeast is working, it is releasing gasses. If you don't leave that space at the top, you could wind up with a mess on your hands. Let the yeast do it's work.
  • Remove your funnel and screw the cap of the bottle on tightly.
  • Gently shake bottle to dissolve sugar. This is the magic step. All the sugar and yeast will combine which will actually create the fermentation process that you need in order to create your beer. Notice we said GENTLY shake. We are making beer, not mixing paint, so treat it with some love.
  • Let stand at room temperature until plastic feels hard and no longer indents when squeezed, which should take 24 to 36 hours. If the bottle is tight, your yeast has done it's work and released it's little yeast farts which means you are on your way to some tasty beer.
  • Put your beer in the fridge and let it chill for a while, then enjoy. This will keep in the fridge for about a week.
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Now that you have ginger beer, what can you do with it, besides drinking it straight? Enter two recipes that call for ginger beer. The Moscow Mule And the Dark and Stormy.

Moscow Mule:

INGREDIENTS

  • Fresh lime juice
    1/2 ounce
  • Vodka
    2 ounces
  • Ginger beer
    4 to 6 ounces
  • Cucumber and lime for garnish
    -

HOW TO MAKE :

  • Squeeze lime juice into a Collins glass or moscow mule mug.
  • Add a handful of ice cubes and 2 ounces of vodka, then fill with ginger beer.
  • Garnish with lime and cucumber slices.

Dark and Stormy:

INGREDIENTS

  • Dark rum
    2 ounces
  • Ginger beer
    3 ounces
  • Lime juice (optional)
    1/2 ounce

HOW TO MAKE :

  • In a Collins glass, combine the rum, ginger beer, and lime juice (if desired).
  • Fill the glass with ice cubes and stir. Adjust proportions if necessary to balance the flavors.
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Ginger Ale:

Ginger Ale
Photo by: bloglovin

Dr. Thomas Cantrell, was an apothecary, that produced what we know as golden ginger ale. What is the difference between Golden Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer? There is little between golden ginger ale and non-alcoholic versions of ginger beer. The only notable difference is that golden ginger ale is clear, and ginger beer is cloudy and has a stronger ginger taste. If you haven't heard of golden ginger ale, it is a more regional thing, as opposed to the dry ginger ale. If you have had Vernors, you have had golden ginger ale.

Enter John McLaughlin. For many of us the term Ginger Ale is synonymous with Canada Dry Ginger Ale. John McLaughlin was a chemist that developed the bubbly creation that we now refer to as ginger ale and patented Canada Dry Ginger Ale in 1907. Ginger ale commonly contains carbonated water, sugar or high fructose corn syrup and ginger flavoring. This is the most widely known type of ginger ale, as opposed to say, Vernors who produces the golden type. Confused yet? Yes, it's a little daunting to get your mind around all these subtle differences. Let's state it simply, just remember that when it comes to ginger beer, it is fermented. Golden Ginger Ale is similar to ginger beer but is clear, not cloudy. Ginger ale is a carbonated bubbly drink. Got it? Simple.

Now if you want to make your own ginger ale, we also have a recipe for that. Yes, ginger ale is widely available at nearly every grocery store. But sometimes, you just want to make something all by yourself. Or perhaps you want to impress your friends by being the coolest host ever. Either way, you can make your very own ginger ale at home, and it's actually not that difficult to do. The other great thing about this, is that the amount of syrup you use can be easily adjusted to your own personal preference.

This recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups syrup (enough for 4 to 6 drinks)

INGREDIENTS

  • Chopped peeled ginger
    1 1/2 cups
  • Water
    2 cups
  • Sugar
    3/4 cup
  • Chilled seltzer or club soda
    1 quart
  • Fresh lime juice
    3 tablespoons

DIRECTIONS

  • Cook ginger in water in a small saucepan at a low simmer, partially covered, 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep, covered, 20 minutes.
  • Strain mixture through a sieve into a bowl, pressing on ginger and then discarding. Again, we only need the liquid part, so throw away the spent ginger bits.
  • Return liquid to saucepan and add sugar and a pinch of salt, then heat over medium heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved.
  • Place ginger syrup in a covered jar (we use a mason jar), then place in the fridge to chill for a few hours.
  • Mix ginger syrup with seltzer and lime juice to make your ginger ale. Start with 1/4 cup syrup and 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice per 3/4 cup seltzer, then adjust to suit your taste. This will keep in the fridge for about a week.