The short and sweet answer to the question “Does Ginger Beer Contain Alcohol?” is “not really” but let us explain why its not a simple yes/no proposition:
Back in 500 BC, ginger was often used in China and India for medicinal purposes and flavoring food. However, fast forward a few centuries, in western countries ginger was often used to prepare a spicy drink known as ginger beer. History records show that those who lived in the Victorian era used to prepare ginger beer, which was dark and cloudy with spicy undertones. The ginger beer back then often contained between 4-5% alcohol but in some cases, 11%. Nowadays, most ginger beers are non-alcoholic with than 0.5% (meeting FDA requirements for non-alcoholic labeling) but some still pack a punch.
Many people believe that ginger beer originated in England back in the 1800s with 2 different styles: carbonated and brewed with the former version often containing sweeteners to grown its popularity and make the taste more suited to those who had never tried it before.
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In order to make ginger beer, you would need sugar, lemon juice, ginger, water and ginger beer plant. For those unfamiliar with it, the ginger beer plant causes the mixture to ferment and after a few days, you’d have ginger beer. The final product would have less than 11% alcohol in most cases but the longer you let the mixture ferment, the higher the alcoholic content.
There were lots of factors taken into consideration when making the drink. In most cases, yeast is added to carbonate the drink but at the end of fermentation, its simply a by-product of the entire process. Once the bottles of ginger beer are placed into a cooler, the yeast then becomes dormant and the fermentation and alcohol producing processes stop.
In today’s world, ginger beer is often thought of as being a non-alcoholic drink but Gosling’s and Crabbie’s are two very popular alcoholic ginger beer brands with alcohol percentages around 5%. Relative to non-alcohol ginger beers, we’re HUGE fans of Fever Tree (Q is solid as well) due to the stronger ginger flavor but the number of new brands entering the market changes by the month. When testing out your favorite Moscow Mule recipe or cocktail calling for ginger beer, test drive a few different brands and see what works for you because they all have subtle differences. And believe me, the research process is quite enjoyable. 🙂
Now of course, if you need a vessel to test out all of these delicious ginger beers, we’d highly recommend our copper mugs. 🙂