Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Home Brew: Ginger Beer

I have been talking about making ginger beer for awhile. We love ginger beer! Though I don't need a reason, I like to think of it as medicine as ginger helps with seasickness. Last year when we were putting somethings in storage in the basement of his parents house, Bryce found his old home brew kit. We pulled it out and its just been sitting in the garage waiting for me to get around to it. Two weeks ago, I was at the fruit shop and saw some bags of ginger for $1.99/kg. Considering it normally sells for $15 - $20/kg, I jumped at the opportunity, bought three kilos and decided that I was finally going to make me some ginger beer. 
Such delicious smells coming from this pot of ginger!
My initial plan had been to start this project on the boat. A friend who also lives aboard said we could definitely do it. After actually brewing and bottling a batch, I would agree and will hopefully do it again on board. It would definitely need to be, at least started, in a location where there is access to water, since it uses a lot. Bonus if bottling can happen in a similar location but not essential. 

Depending on whether or not we would be sailing, it may also be necessary not to fill the tub as high to give some space for sloshing. 
After adding the sugars and malt.
Fermenting away...
I couldn't find any one recipe that I wanted to follow so what I ended up doing is cobbled together from many different online suggestions plus those of the very helpful man at the brewing shop, Bryce and his brother. Some forums i read suggested adding some chilies for an extra kick, an idea that I loved and borrowed. I had some fresh chilies from my Nannie's garden and I may not have added enough so we will see! I definitely learned alot and would modify some aspects of how I would do it next time. I haven't tried the brew yet since we are trying to be sugar free for 30 days so I can't wait to taste it when it's ready and will let you know what the verdict is. 
The finished product!
- I cooked the chilies, ginger and rinds directly in the pot and poured it into the tub. This proved to be problematic in the bottling process as the ginger clogged the tap. Next time, I would put those three things in a hops boil bag before cooking and transfer them to the tub in that bag, removing the bag before bottling.
- For disinfecting and sterilizing, I did use special brewer cleaning products because we had them. I don't know if I would necessarily use them again next time as I can sterilize in my pressure cooker and generally do a pretty job cleaning otherwise.

Ginger Beer

2 kg ginger, chopped
4 chilies, chopped
4 lemons, juice and rind
2 limes, juice and rind
1 kg dextrose
1 kg malt powder
300g cane sugar + 150g cane sugar
1 pkg champagne yeast
21 L water, boiled and cooled (or other chlorine free water)

Large fermentation vessel with tap, large pot, hydrometer, graduated cylinder-type flask (no units of measure necessary), airlock and bung, long handled spoon, thermometer, blender, plastic bottles, funnel, cheesecloth

1) If necessary, the day before starting your brew, boil 21 litres of water. Cover and let cool.

2) Clean and sterilize all surfaces and equipment. Give everything a double rinse to ensure that no residual disinfectant remains. 

3) Bring 1 L of water to a boil. Add lemon and lime rind and juice, followed by the ginger and return to a boil. Let simmer for a few minutes. Add dextrose, malt, and 300 g sugar. Simmer for ~ 30min. If may be necessary to transfer some of the ginger to the fermentation vessel prior to adding the sugars and malt. When finished, spoon the solids into the fermentation vessel and pour in the remaining liquid. Let sit for five minutes before adding the 21 L boiled and cooled water to the tub.

4) Wait until the liquid cools to ~ 20-22 C, take a specific gravity reading with the hydrometer (make sure to write it down somewhere). Give the mixture a big stir, then add the yeast while continuing to stir. Fit the airlock and bung, close lid and store keg out of the way, preferably where there is a steady temp. Leave for a week. 

5) After one week take another specific gravity reading. Each day following take a new reading. When you receive the same reading two days in a row, it is ready to bottle.  Let it sit another day before bottling.

6) To bottle, clean and sterilise all surfaces and equipment: bottles, funnel and cheese cloth. Dissolve 150g sugar in 500 ml water and mix into brew. Line funnel with the cheesecloth and fill bottles to about 1 in from the top. Seal and store in a dark place with a steady temperature. This batch fill 29 740ml bottles.

***UPDATE February 7, 2014- We have just tried the first sample. This is not a super sweet ginger beer. The flavour is mostly at the back of the palate and the ginger and chili flavours definitely come out. After a bit of experimenting (involving fish sauce), we found that adding a dash of salt to the brew really evened out the flavours. If you are interested in sweetening it up, a dash of sugar syrup should do the trick.***


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