Sunday, November 26, 2006

Home Brew

This weekend I used this recipe to make my own ginger ale. I’ve wanted to try making soda for a long time and while the main obsession in the past was root beer ginger ale won out for the first experiment because it can be made from ingredients available at the corner market.

Making the soda was really easy – the only challenging step is peeling and grating a bunch of ginger root. I thought this would be the perfect test for my microplane but next time I think I’ll go back to a regular grater. I’ve happily used the microplane to shred small amounts of ginger in the past but halfway through my processing job for the soda the tines were caked with ginger fibers and I had to pause and clean the thing (not an easy task – ginger could probably compete with hemp for sturdiest fiber). The soda was supposed to sit in a warm sport until the bottle got hard which was supposed to take 24-48 hours but after only 14 hours my soda bottle felt rock hard (dirty!). Because the recipe warned that leaving the soda out for too long could lead to an explosion (dirtier!) I loosen the cap and let off a little of the head (…I really thought this would be a G rated entry) and let it sit for another 15 hours.

As fun as the soda making process was the truly important thing is taste. Typically I’m unimpressed with most commercial ginger ale – it’s ok but it’s never very gingery. I’ve had some of the premium ginger ale that’s on the market and while it’s always impressed me I find it hard to justify paying $2/bottle for what is essentially sugar water (I imagine the cost will be even harder to justify in the future now that I know how cheap ginger ale ingredients are). For the purposes of this taste test I used your standard Canada Dry ginger ale. I’m testing the store and home varieties plain and with some bourbon.

Ginger Ale – Straight Up.

Canada Dry

Smell: vaguely gingery in a ginger snap way

Mouth Feel: lightly bubbly

Taste: sweet, not particularly gingery

Final: The Canadian’s in the audience should demand that this product be renamed

Brianna’s Home Brew

Smell: sharp ginger, a little bit malty (from the yeast?)

Mouth Feel: tingly (not a lot of bubble)

Taste: light, not too sweet, could be spicier

Final: Yum… but not yumtastic.

While my Home made brew is infinitely better than the corner market swill I’m still not thrilled with it. I’d like my version to be spicier but I’m not entirely sure how to get there – I don’t think more ginger alone will do it. Some recipes use ginger simple syrup instead of sugar and raw ginger which might help since the ginger flavor might be more infused but shouldn’t heat bring down the spice? I also wonder if using the microplane to gate the ginger was a mistake. The pieces of ginger were very small which meant I could avoid straining the soda but I lost a fair bit of ginger juice in the process. I’d also like it to pack more bubbles – something I might get with fresher yeast (the yeast I used was at least a year old).

Jim and Ginger

(yes, I know it’s usually Jack and Ginger but Ginger’s a slut and I like Jim better)

Canada Dry

Mmmm bourbon. I don’t often (ok, ever…) drink bourbon straight but it can’t taste much different than this. The sugar (ok, corn syrup) probably provides a nice mask for the alcohol but it doesn’t add much in terms of flavor.

Brianna’s Home Brew

Mmm punchy! Strangely enough the soda seems much spicier when mixed with the bourbon – possibly this is the bourbon’s own spice coming through but I have to believe that the ginger ale is highlighting it. This drink is MUCH superior to the Canadian variety and I think this will fast become my ginger ale consumption weapon of choice (but it won’t beat out the bourbon consumption weapon of choice.. mmmm mint juleps).

I hope to experiment further with ginger ale and soda in general. Any tips on upping the spice are much appreciated and if anyone knows of a brewing supply store that sells root beer extract (preferably in NYC) OR (even better) a source for winter green so I can make the soda from scratch please let me know.


themikestand said...

Tell us more about your rock. hard. soda bottle?

Please speak slowly.

I also have heard that yeast is all but dead after a year. Try refrigerating it for a fresher product, if you're not already.

Bob said...

I know this is old content but I found it looking at the search results for my homebrewing club ( If you still have an interest in making your ginger ale you might try using a brewing yeast or even a champaign yeast. You can get either from a homebrewers supply store. There are many around larger metropolitan areas.