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Ginger beer has recently been growing in popularity for its sweet spiciness that is also refreshing. You may have downed a couple and started wondering, “Does ginger beer have alcohol in it? Is this OK for me to be drinking during the day?” Don’t worry. Modern ginger beer found on the shelves of your local supermarket usually have little to no alcohol. That doesn’t mean, however, that ginger beer is always non-alcoholic! If you want to know more about ginger beer’s alcohol by volume (ABV), you have come to the right place. Here is everything you need to know.
Table of Contents
- What is Ginger Beer?
- History of Ginger Beer
- Does Ginger Beer Have Alcohol In It?
- What Brands of Ginger Beer Contain Alcohol?
- How to Make Your Own Alcoholic Ginger Beer
- Say Cheers to Ginger Beer
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is Ginger Beer?
Ginger beer is a beverage that is typically made from ginger, sugar, water, and sometimes yeast. It has a spicy and refreshing flavor with a distinct ginger taste. While it shares the word “beer” in its name, ginger beer is not a true beer in the traditional sense because it is not brewed from grains and does not undergo the same fermentation process as beer.
Traditional ginger beer is typically made with sugar, water, grated ginger root, and yeast. As you may know from home-brewing beer or wine (or even baking bread), yeast is used for fermentation. Without yeast, there is no fermentation. Furthermore, it is through this fermentation that alcohol and carbonation are created during this period.
The fermentation process can take several days to a week, during which the mixture is left to sit at room temperature. This results in a naturally carbonated drink with a mildly alcoholic content.
On the other hand, modern commercial ginger beers tend to follow a non-alcoholic recipe that is also used for carbonated beverages with a ginger flavor, like ginger ale. Generally, non-alcoholic ginger beers are usually used as mixers for cocktails like the Moscow Mule.
History of Ginger Beer
The history of ginger beer dates back several centuries. Ginger itself has a long history of medicinal and culinary use in various cultures. But the origins of ginger beer can be tracked back to spice trade routes that connected Europe, China, India, and Southeast Asia.
While ginger came from Asia, the earliest forms of ginger beer can be traced back to the 18th century in England, where it was initially made as a home-brewed beverage. Ginger was grated, mixed with water and sugar, and left to ferment naturally with the help of wild yeast. This fermentation process produced a mildly alcoholic and carbonated beverage with a ginger flavor.
Ginger beer gained popularity in England during the Victorian era, where it was enjoyed as a refreshing drink. The carbonation and spicy ginger flavor made it a favorite among the working class and sailors, as it was considered to have digestive and medicinal properties.
19th and 20th Centuries
After the 18th century, the world shifted towards industrialization. At this time, ginger beer production became more commercialized. Breweries emerged throughout Europe to produce larger amounts of beer and ginger beer due to the high demand. There was also an introduction of artificial carbonation techniques that allowed for enhanced consistency of carbonation. The amount of alcohol was also controlled to comply with regulations.
During this time, ginger beer also gained popularity in other parts of the world, including the United States and the Caribbean. In the Caribbean, ginger beer was often made with added ingredients such as lime juice, cloves, and other spices, giving it a unique regional variation.
In the 20th century, the production of ginger beer shifted towards non-alcoholic versions. This allowed for wider consumption and eliminated concerns about the alcohol content, making ginger beer more accessible to a broader audience. Today, ginger beer is enjoyed worldwide, both as a standalone beverage and as a mixer in cocktails.
Does Ginger Beer Have Alcohol In It?
Ginger beer can have alcohol in it, but it depends on the specific product. Traditional ginger beer is typically fermented, which can result in a low alcohol content ranging from about 0.5% to 2% alcohol by volume (ABV). This level of alcohol is relatively low compared to other alcoholic beverages.
However, it’s important to note that many commercially produced ginger beers today are non-alcoholic. These versions are made without fermentation or undergo a process to remove the alcohol, resulting in a beverage with no alcohol content. Non-alcoholic ginger beer is widely available and can be enjoyed by individuals of all ages.
Does Ginger Ale Have Alcohol?
After pondering if ginger beer is alcoholic, you may be wondering about ginger ale. Are there versions of ginger ale that could inebriate you? Or is the carbonated beverage strictly non-alcoholic? In general, you are not going to find ginger ale that has alcohol in it. Most brands make ginger ale without any yeast or alcohol involved. Some don’t even use real ginger.
However, there are some craft ginger ales out there that may have very small amounts of alcohol. These alcoholic ginger ales are not as common as non-alcoholic versions, and their alcohol content is typically very low, often less than 0.5% ABV. You may be able to find ginger ales that contain some yeast, but it is most common for them to be made with water, sugar, and ginger or natural flavors.
What Brands of Ginger Beer Contain Alcohol?
As mentioned earlier, non-alcoholic ginger beer is currently the more popular option, because you can drink it without getting buzzed or dealing with a hungover. For instance, Bundaberg Ginger Beer is the go-to for Moscow Mules and other ginger beer-infused drinks. However, if you are looking for the boozier cousin of ginger ale, the good news is that you are in luck. There are plenty of alcoholic ginger beers out there for you to try. Here is a short list of some options that you should try:
Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer
Coming to you straight from Scotland, Crabbie’s is an original when it comes to ginger beer. Each 330 ml bottle contains 4% ABV. Crabbie’s is known for a delightful flavor, as well as four secret ingredients mixed into the ginger beer to give it a quality that few other brands can replicate. Recenty, Crabbie’s also released two flavored versions: Spiced Orange and Scottish Raspberry.
Cock ‘n Bull
Cock ‘n Bull is known for its ginger beer, and they also produce an alcoholic version called Cock ‘n Bull Ginger Beer, which contains alcohol, typically around 4% ABV.
Fentiman’s Botanically Brewed Ginger Beer.
Fentimans produces both alcoholic and non-alcoholic ginger beer and has been doing so since 1905! Their alcoholic version, known as Fentimans Alcoholic Ginger Beer, has an ABV of 4%.
Matso’s Ginger Beer
Hailing from Broome, in Western Australia, Matso’s brewery makes an awesome ginger beer that is both thirst-quenching and refreshing. The alcohol by volume is 3.5%.
Seabold Ginger Beer
Seabold is a small batch ginger beer crafted in Los Angeles. The beer itself is a golden color and comes subtly carbonated, making it refreshing and delicious. Interestingly, each batch is handmade, so when one batch is sold out, that’s it. Good luck getting your hands on this unless you are visiting California (but it would be a worthwhile trip, for sure).
Being that ginger beer is becoming more and more popular, it is highly recommended that you check your local breweries and liquor stores for new brands not mentioned here. You never know what you may find!
How to Make Your Own Alcoholic Ginger Beer
Tired of only finding non-alcoholic ginger beer on the store shelves? Want to try making your own? Unlike non-alcoholic ginger beer which is made without fermentation, alcoholic ginger beer adds that process (which means it takes a little longer to make than ginger ale). Fortunately, if you are familiar with brewing anything alcoholic at home, the fermentation process won’t feel so alien to you!
First off, check out this fun video on how to make fermented ginger beer:
Or, if you prefer to read your directions, here are the ingredients and steps for making alcoholic ginger beer:
- 1 cup ginger root (grated or minced)
- 1 ½ cups white granulated sugar
- 4 cups water
- 1 lemon (juiced)
- ½ teaspoon active dry yeast
- Additional sugar for priming (optional, for carbonation)
Prepping and Brewing
- Prepare the ginger: Peel and grate or mince the ginger root. The amount can be adjusted based on your desired level of ginger flavor.
- Create the ginger syrup: In a saucepan, combine the grated ginger, sugar, and water. Heat the mixture over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes to infuse the flavors. Remove from heat and allow it to cool.
- Strain the ginger syrup: Once cooled, strain the ginger syrup to remove the ginger solids. You can use a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth for this step.
- Add lemon juice: Stir in the freshly squeezed lemon juice into the ginger syrup. Lemon juice adds acidity and balances the flavors.
- If you do not want to make your ginger beer alcoholic, the next step is to dilute your ginger “beer” with some sparkling water or soda water. However, if you are making a boozy ginger beer, do not add the water and continue onto the next part of the process—fermentation.
Fermentation and Finishing Up
- Pitch the yeast: Dissolve the yeast in a small amount of lukewarm water according to the package instructions. Let it activate and foam for about 10 minutes.
- Combine the ginger syrup and yeast: Transfer the ginger syrup to a clean and sanitized fermentation vessel, such as a glass carboy or fermenting bucket. Add the activated yeast to the ginger syrup and mix well.
- Fermentation: Does ginger beer have alcohol? If you skip this step, it won’t. Seal the fermentation vessel with an airlock or cover it with a clean cloth secured with a rubber band to allow gases to escape. Place the vessel in a cool, dark location with a consistent temperature (around 68-72°F or 20-22°C) for fermentation. Fermentation time can vary, but it typically takes 3-7 days. During this period, the yeast will convert the sugars into alcohol, and carbonation may develop.
- Optional carbonation: If you prefer a carbonated ginger beer, you can prime it before bottling. Dissolve additional sugar (around 1-2 teaspoons per 16 oz bottle) in a small amount of water, and add it to the fermented ginger beer. Bottle the ginger beer in clean, sealable bottles, leaving some headspace. Allow the bottles to sit at room temperature for a few days to carbonate before transferring them to the refrigerator.
- Refrigeration and maturation: Once carbonation is achieved (if desired), move the bottles to the refrigerator to slow down fermentation and allow the flavors to develop. Ginger beer is typically best when consumed within a few weeks.
Say Cheers to Ginger Beer
Hopefully, you now know the answer to the question, “Does ginger beer have alcohol?” The answer is maybe. It depends on the product. Some ginger beers are made with yeast and, therefore, are fermented. Those that undergoing fermentation are going to have some alcohol. That said, most commercially crafted ginger beers are non-alcoholic, making them enjoyable for all age groups. So, next time you are throwing a party and want to offer something that everyone will enjoy, grab some alcoholic and non-alcoholic ginger beer or try crafting some of your own!
Frequently Asked Questions
Ginger beer can vary in alcohol content, and there are both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions available. Traditional ginger beer is usually fermented, resulting in a low alcohol content, typically around 0.5% to 5% alcohol by volume (ABV). However, many modern commercially produced ginger beers are non-alcoholic and contain no alcohol at all.
Since there are two kinds of ginger beer—alcoholic and non-alcoholic—it is safe to say that children should only have the latter. It is always best to check the label on the ginger beer you have purchased to double check before giving it to a child.
The legal drinking age and regulations regarding the sale of ginger beer can vary depending on the country and local jurisdiction. In many places, non-alcoholic ginger beer is not subject to age restrictions, and individuals of any age can purchase it.
The term “ginger beer” can be a bit misleading since it doesn’t fit the traditional definition of beer. The name likely originated from the fermentation process involved in its traditional production, which is similar to that of beer. The fermentation of ginger beer involves the use of ginger, sugar, water, and sometimes yeast, resulting in a carbonated and slightly alcoholic beverage. However, most modern ginger beers contained zero alcohol, as they are made without fermentation.