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May Kitchen Challenge: Ginger Ale

May Kitchen Challenge - Ginger Ale

I’ve become somewhat of a ginger ale connoisseur in the recent months; after having decided that alcohol just makes me feel icky and tired of being the lame-o who only orders water. Now, it’s ginger ale. And you’d be surprised at the varying qualities of ginger ale available today. Many restaurants are, to my delight, serving up homemade ginger ales or artisan ales in place of the watered down, you-can-barely-taste-the-ginger stuff. From now on, I’m totally going to judge a restaurant by the quality of the ginger ale.

My absolute favorite so far? The house-made ginger ale from Locanda in San Francisco. So. Dang. Spicy. I loved it and haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Ginger Ale from Locanda, San Francisco

The memory of that cool glass of goodness is perhaps one of the reasons why I’ve decided that this month we’ll be tackling homemade ginger ale! And I’m not talking about machine-carbonated here, so put away the SodaStream and club soda. Nope, we’re going to get our bubbles the old fashioned way: with yeast.

Well, technically (as per Serious Eats) REAL ginger beer is fermented with something called a ginger beer plant (say what?!) but similar results are achievable with yeast. Do note that one by-product of this process IS alcohol, but depending on the method the actual amount varies from negligible to maybe a few %. Not that your kids would WANT to drink something this spicy, but, still, something to consider.

I won’t try to argue the differences between ginger ale and ginger beer, because, honestly, I don’t really know the true definition. Some say ginger beer is spicier and more gingery, but I’ve had some diabolically spicy ginger ales. Others say ginger ale is carbonated with C02 like soda and ginger beer is fermented with yeast.

You could say this month’s challenge is a wee bit easier than April’s macaron challenge that gave us all so much grief. Although rest assured, the explosive potential of this challenge (literally) keeps this recipe well within the ‘challenge’ classification.

The Challenges:
  • No explosions, please. FOLLOW YOUR RECIPE to know exactly how long you need to let the beer ferment. I might also use plastic bottles instead of glass, just in case. Otherwise, you may end up with a kitchen covered in sticky ginger juice and shattered glass. No good. Also, if you have a spare bath tub, use it.
  • Yeast. Some recipes I’ve seen call for Champagne yeast instead of your regular old bread yeast. Not sure what the differences are, but Champagne yeast can be found at any beer/wine-making supply store, or online.
  • Ginger. If you’ve got a juicer this will be a breeze. Otherwise, I’m guessing the act of grating (use a microplane grater) and straining all that ginger is not going to be quick work. Although I have heard a blender works too.

While I haven’t decided which recipe I am going to follow just yet, the good news is there are plenty of options and they all seem fairly straightforward:

  • Serious Eats: Interesting use of Champagne Yeast here instead of usual bread yeast. Lots and lots of ginger, plus lime juice.
  • Alton Brown: A simple recipe with ginger, sugar, and lemon juice.
  • Jeffrey Mogenthaler: Nice in-depth recipe, with links to ingredients and equipment. Scale the recipe to your heart’s desire.
  • Chow: This recipe goes as far as making your own “wild fermented ginger” which is, I think, what the “Ginger Beer Plant” actually is. Interesting, for sure, but takes a lot longer, a total of 14 days for the entire process. Serious bonus points to anyone who attempts this (and let me remind you it IS called Kitchen Challenge after all…)

Join me!

If you’re up for the challenge, make a batch of homemade ginger ale/ginger beer by Wednesday, May 22nd. Send me a photo of your results. I’ll document my experience and also share the images/links to those who’ve taken the challenge as well. This challenge is simply about getting in the kitchen and challenging yourself to make something new; you aren’t required to have a blog to participate, nor are you required to post about it if you do. However, if you do have a blog and post about the challenge, you are more than welcome to use the above graphic if you’d like to spread the word! (Please upload it to your own server.)

Submit Your Results »

Ready, set, carbonate!

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27 CommentsLeave a Comment →

  1. 1
    Posted On May 1, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Oooh what a fun challenge!

    Reply

  2. 2
    Posted On May 1, 2013 at 8:43 am

    I’m actually not a fan of ginger ale/beer although I am obsessed with root beer. I’ll is tout this month, but I think this challenge is still really cool! I would’ve never thought to make my own beverage like this.

    Reply

  3. 3
    Posted On May 1, 2013 at 9:01 am

    I brew kombucha and kefir and love fermenting things; science is so fun :) And some of the kombucha I make is wickedly potent….can you say over-fermenting. I am going to try to do the ginger ale challenge with you! Will send pics and link if I pull this off :)

    Reply

  4. 4
    sarah
    Posted On May 1, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Another great way to get the juice out of ginger without a lot of work is to freeze it solid, and then let it thaw. Once it is thawed, you can squeeze it and get all the juice out, and leave the pulp behind. So much easier than all the work with a microplane and mesh strainer.

    Looking forward to making some ginger ale!

    Reply

    • Posted On May 1, 2013 at 9:21 am

      That is a great tip, thank you for sharing!

  5. 5
    Posted On May 1, 2013 at 9:22 am

    I’ve been having the biggest craving on a Dark and Stormy (probably because the weather is finally nice in the Northeast), so this challenge is going to be fun!

    Reply

  6. 6
    Posted On May 1, 2013 at 9:23 am

    Great challenge! I think I might enlist my beer-making hubby’s help on this one. I am a little nervous! lol

    Reply

  7. 7
    Posted On May 1, 2013 at 9:37 am

    What a great idea. My husband has been talking about making homemade ginger ale for a while. Now he’ll have his chance, and we can do this together.

    Reply

  8. 8
    Posted On May 1, 2013 at 9:45 am

    can’t wait to see the results! whenever I’ve tried yeast for the bubbles, my brews turn out too alcohol-ly for teetotaler tastebuds.

    Reply

  9. 9
    Posted On May 1, 2013 at 10:47 am

    What an interesting post and challenge! YUMMY!

    Reply

  10. 10
    Posted On May 1, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Fun, fun, fun! I am totally doing this! I can’t wait!

    Reply

  11. 11
    Posted On May 1, 2013 at 11:48 am

    I have such fond memories of exploding ginger ale bottles from my childhood. My mother would store them in a cupboard and forget about them and suddenly when we least expected it, one would erupt everywhere. I think there may have been a flaw in the technique back then!

    Reply

  12. 12
    Posted On May 1, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Such an awesome idea for a challenge! I think I might give Alton’s easy recipe a go!

    Reply

  13. 13
    Posted On May 1, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    The last two month I wanted to join you in the kitchen challenges …. maybe this month it will work out? As there is a huge piece of ginger lying in the kitchen waiting to be used … :P Let’s hope for the best :)
    Thanks for another great challenge! Take care :)
    ps. how is it going at shelfari? ;)

    Reply

  14. 14
    Posted On May 1, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    I’m considering doing this challenge with you! I’m not a huge fan of ginger things, but making soda sounds like a fun and science challenge! I’ll definitely send pics if I do! Although I’m really scared of wasting all that yeast if it doesn’t turn out right…

    Reply

  15. 15
    Posted On May 1, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Oh my gosh – you are speaking my language. I love ginger – ginger ale, ginger candy, ginger snaps, slices with sushi – LOVE it :)

    My uncle’s mom actually has a few recipes I want to try but this month is super busy. Maybe I can make one of the ones you have suggested. If I do, I’ll join the challenge :D

    Reply

  16. 16
    Posted On May 1, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    So fun!! What a genius idea!! I cant wait to read about you results!

    Reply

  17. 17
    Posted On May 1, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    What a unique idea! Love this challenge! I’m on a recent ginger kick, so perfect timing!

    Reply

  18. 18
    Posted On May 2, 2013 at 2:43 am

    What a great challenge! I’ve made a few batches of ginger beer and it’s lots of fun. I use the dried ground ginger though. Also, I use old plastic coke bottles, so less mess if they explode (though they never have) and also keep them in a cooler so that if they do, they will only mess that up. The smell of the plant brewing for a week is delicious. Here’s the recipe I use: http://www.thingsforboys.com/2012/04/home-brewed-ginger-beer.html

    Reply

  19. 19
    Posted On May 2, 2013 at 7:35 am

    I love ginger beer, but I don’t think I’m brave enough to take part in the challenge. I will add it to The Food Blog Diary for you though.

    Reply

  20. 20
    Posted On May 2, 2013 at 9:15 am

    I love ginger, I made a cake with 2 tbsp of it. I should join you :)

    Reply

  21. 21
    Posted On May 2, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Ginger Libation from River Ambrosia in Greenfield is my new favorite drink. How AWESOME if I could make my own! I am so going to try to do this!

    Reply

  22. 22
    Posted On May 2, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Nice! I too am getting tired of drinking water… Can’t wait to see your results

    Reply

  23. 23
    Posted On May 6, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    I’ve already tackled this challenge with only minor explosions. Very tasty results!

    http://www.thefunkykitchen.com/2011/02/18/gingerbeer-anyone/

    Reply

  24. 24
    Posted On May 8, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    I’m a huge ginger ale fan. It’s pretty much the only carbonated beverage I drink (aside from beer and champagne!). What a fun challenge!

    Reply

  25. 25
    Posted On May 17, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    I really like what you guys are usually up too. Such clever work and exposure!
    Keep up the terrific works guys I’ve included you guys to my own blogroll.

    Reply

  26. 26
    Posted On May 19, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Kicking myself for not spotting this early enough to try the 2-week fermented kind in time… going to try the yeast-carbonated version for wednesday, but plan to try the fermented one later. The “ginger beer plant” sounds a lot like a kombucha scoby — any microbiologists know how they compare?

    Reply

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