Dating back to 500 BC, ginger was used for medicinal purposes and as spice for flavoring food by people of Ancient China and India. But, in the western countries, ginger was mainly used to prepare the spicy drinks.
It is known that during the Victorian era, ginger was used to brew ginger beer, a cloudy and spicy beverage. The alcohol content of the drink is generally 4-5% and maximum limit is generally less than 11%. The drink however is usually categorized under the non alcoholic umbrella.
Ginger beer is believed to be originated in England in the 1980s. Two versions of ginger beers are available, which are:
- Brewed ginger beer and
- a carbonated drink flavored with ginger and sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners.
The ingredients required to brew ginger beer includes ginger, sugar, water, lemon juice, and a fungal-bacterial symbiotic organism known as ginger beer plant. Fermentation over few days turns the mixture into ginger beer. Baker’s yeast, lactic acid bacteria, etc can also be used to brew ginger beer.
The final product fermentation has less than 11% alcohol. The longer the ginger beer ferments, the more alcoholic it becomes. Factors like sugar content and temperature of brewing is also said to influence the alcohol content of the drink. The type of yeast may not have any impact on the alcohol content of the ginger beer.
Yeast is basically added to carbonate the drink it and alcohol is the by- product of that process. Once you keep the bottles containing ginger beer in the cooler, the yeast will become dormant and they will stop the fermentation process and therefore will stop producing alcohol. Using natural beer bug or ginger beer plant is the best method to keep the alcohol content of the drink low.
Nowadays, ginger beer is generally considered a non-alcoholic drink because their alcoholic content is significantly less than 5%. Crabbies and Soneys are two popular brands of alcoholic ginger beers with about 4.8% alcohol, high for this type of brew.