Fermenting Ginger Beer can eat up the sugar and leave behind that dry unmistakable tang of ginger. This week on the Local Food Report, Elspeth Hay heads to Truro to talk with the founders of Farmer Willie's Craft Ginger Beer, Nico Enriquez and Willie Fenichel, about why they got into making fermented beer and how the process works.
A small batch starts with a cup of water mixed with a tablespoon of sugar, a bit of ginger, and a yeast strain from the champagne region of France. Unlike many yeasts, champagne yeast eats almost all the sugar in a liquid—leaving a dry, clean flavor—which Willie and Nico say is key to a top notch beer. Next this mixture is covered with cheesecloth and they let it sit for a week, adding new ginger and sugar every day to feed the yeast. When they're ready to bottle, they add more sugar water, ginger, and lemon to the fermented yeast mixture and ladle the beer into bottles to ferment. A week later it's ready to drink.
This kind of fermented ginger beer is unusual on the commercial market—most are essentially soda, with pressurized CO2 rather than CO2 created naturally through fermentation—but home fermenting of ginger beer is getting more popular. Here are a few recipe ideas to get you started:
A fermented ginger beer with champagne yeast from Serious Eats. (Note: Willie recommends using granulated sugar, not brown sugar.)
A natural yeast fermented ginger beer based on Sandor Katz's method.
A method using a ginger beer "plant," similar to a kombucha or vinegar mother, from the Guardian.
This piece first aired in September 2017.