How To Brew Alcoholic Ginger Beer The Easy Way

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how-to-brew-alcoholic-ginger-beer

If you’ve already made your own homemade ginger ale, then you might be in the mood to try something with a bit more of a kick to it. The process for making alcoholic ginger beer is very similar to soda; you just let the fermentation continue for longer so that alcohol is formed.

A good ginger beer should give you a warming tingle as you drink it–not from the alcohol, but from the bite of the ginger.

This recipe is designed to be done the “easy way”, meaning you only need two pieces of fermentation equipment that you may not already have–a 1-gallon glass jug and a fermentation lock. However, I’ve also included some advanced tips–they are optional, but will make the brewing process easier.

Ginger Beer Ingredients

  • 2 ½ lb Ginger Root (less if you’d like less of a “bite”
  • 12 c Water
  • 1 ½ c Packed Brown Sugar
  • 1 c Lemon Juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
  • 1 package Champagne Yeast

Sanitize all your equipment–anything that will touch the ginger beer. The easy way is give everything a 20 minute soak in a solution of water and chlorine bleach (1 tablespoon bleach per 1 gallon of water). After the soak, be sure to thoroughly wash and rinse everything; you don’t want any traces of bleach killing off your yeast! Be sure to allow everything to air dry–you just killed off any germs, why risk putting them back with a slightly dirty towel?

Advanced Tip: The advanced method of sanitizing would be to use a commercial sanitizer like StarSan–you mix it with water, dip your equipment in for a few seconds, and let it all air dry. There’s no need to rinse.

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Scrub the ginger root and remove any blemishes or bad spots, but leave the skins on.

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how-to-brew-alcoholic-ginger-beer

Coarsely chop it, then combine it with 1 cup of water in your food processor and pulse until you have a pulp.

Bring the remaining 11 cups of water almost to a boil–warm enough so that it will dissolve the sugar. Add the brown sugar and mix thoroughly until is completely dissolved. Add the lemon juice and ginger root pulp (with the water) and set it aside to cool for an hour or two.

how-to-brew-alcoholic-ginger-beer

Pour the ginger/sugar/water mixture into a 1 gallon glass jug–the type that apple cider comes in. For this easy recipe, I’m just using a single fermentation vessel, the glass jug.

Advanced Tip: The “advanced” way would be to use a primary fermenter and a secondary fermenter. The primary fermenter would be a 2-gallon food-grade plastic bucket with a snap-on lid, and the secondary fermenter would be your glass jug.

The benefit to using a plastic primary fermenter is that you can use all of the water that you’ll need for the process–we’re going to be adding some additional water later on in the fermentation, but with a 2-gallon primary fermenter you can start with all the water you need. Also, some fermentations will produce quite a bit of foam during the first few days which can clog the narrow neck of a glass jug.

The downside to using two fermentation vessels is that it’s not easy to find the proper type of bucket unless you go to a homebrew store, or buy it online. Also, you’ll need to drill a hole and insert a gasket so that you can add your fermentation lock.

With 1 ½ cup of brown sugar in the mix, plus the naturally occurring sugars in the ginger, you’ll wind up with a ginger beer that is about 3% – 4% ABV (alcohol by volume).

Advanced Tip: If you want to know the exact alcohol amount, then you can determine it by using a hydrometer. To learn how to use one, check out How To Use A Hydrometer For Brewing Beer, Wine And More.

how-to-brew-alcoholic-ginger-beer

Next, prepare your yeast. Heat about 1 cup of the ginger/sugar liquid to around 105°F –not too hot or you will kill the yeast. Stir in the contents of the yeast package, loosely cover and set aside.

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After about 30 minutes to 1 hour, you should start seeing signs of activity in the yeast–foaming and bubbling.

Yeast requires a few essential nutrients to survive, which are sometimes missing from the fruit (or ginger) and sugar. To ensure an active, vigorous fermentation, you can add 1 tsp of powdered yeast nutrient to your yeast starter.

Add the liquid yeast mixture to your ginger/sugar/water mix in the fermenter and attach an airlock, making sure the cork fits tightly.

how-to-brew-alcoholic-ginger-beer

Your fermentation lock may not look exactly like ours, but they all work a similar way. You add water to the lock so that the escaping gasses bubble through it. The allows the gas to exit without any air (and new bacteria) getting in.

Allow your brew to sit undisturbed in a cool, dim place for 3 to 7 days, until the fermentation has slowed (the bubbles coming through the airlock have slowed down) and the sediment created during fermentation has had a chance to settle.

Once the fermentation has slowed down, you’re ready to strain the ginger solids out.

how-to-brew-alcoholic-ginger-beer

Using a fine mesh strainer, or a piece of cheesecloth, slowly pour/strain your brew into a large pot. Once again, anything that your brew touches should be properly sanitized.

how-to-brew-alcoholic-ginger-beer

If you’re going to be using the same glass jug to continue the fermentation, go ahead and wash it out–you’ll likely have quite a bit of sediment stuck to the bottom. Pour your brew back into it. You’ll notice that the jug isn’t quite full any more–this is due to the space that the ginger took up. You can just top off the with plain water–pour it over the ginger in the strainer first to extract that last bit of ginger-y goodness, then top off the glass jug to about 1″ below the cork.

Advanced Tip: If you started with a plastic primary fermenter, you were able to use a full gallon of liquid, so you won’t need to top off when you transfer to the secondary fermenter.

Allow the ginger beer to sit in the secondary fermenter for another two weeks. You’ll see sediment settling to the bottom of the jug, but the brew won’t get completely clear. That’s ok–we’re not making Canada Dry; good ginger beer is still cloudy.

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After two weeks you’re ready to “rack” your ginger beer. This is the process of siphoning off the cider from the yeast “sludge” that has settled at the bottom of the jug. You’ll also be sweetening and carbonating the brew. To sweeten it you will need to use a non-fermentable sweetener like Xylitol sugar alcohol, or Stevia. I’m using a liquid Stevia for my brew.

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Slowly and carefully pour the ginger beer into a sanitized pot, stopping  before any of the sediment in the bottom is transferred.

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You’ll probably leave about an inch of liquid in the bottom along with the sediment. That’s fine, it’s better to lose some of your brew than to transfer the sediment.

Advanced Tip: The easiest way to transfer your ginger beer is with a racking cane–a siphon tool designed specifically for brewing. See our post on How To Make Hard Cider for more information on how to use it.

Once all of the cider has been transferred, sweeten it to taste. There’s no exact measurement that I can give you, since it depends on how sweet you like it and what you are using to sweeten. In my case I used 80 drops of the liquid Stevia. IMPORTANT: To sweeten the ginger beer, you MUST use some sort of non-fermentable sweetener. If you just add sugar, then the yeast will go to work on it again and either make more alcohol (if you have a fermentation lock on) or carbonate your ginger beer (if it’s in a sealed bottle). Either way, sugar won’t make it sweeter!

how-to-brew-alcoholic-ginger-beer

You’ll probably want to carbonate your ginger beer–you could drink it “still” (flat), but bubbly is so much better! Heat 1 cup of water and add ¼ cup brown sugar.

how-to-brew-alcoholic-ginger-beer

Mix the sugar and water until they are completely dissolved, then set them aside to cool down to room temperature. Once they are cool, stir them into the ginger beer.

Now you’re ready to bottle the cider. I like to use these bottles with swing-top lids, but you can use anything from regular capped glass bottles to emptied 16 ounce water bottles.

how-to-brew-alcoholic-ginger-beer

I like to fill an empty plastic water bottle to use to test the carbonation level. When your bottles are filled, set them aside at room temperature. A small amount of fermentation will begin again (due to the added sugar). Give the plastic bottle a squeeze every day; when it is rock-hard, you’ve got a good amount of carbonation, and it’s time to move the bottles to the refrigerator to stop the fermentation process.

Advanced Tip: If you’d like to store your bottles at room temperature, check out our post on Pasteurizing Hard Cider to learn more about a process to be sure your fermentation has stopped.

If you can wait, allow the ginger beer to sit for at least 1 month to allow the flavors to fully develop. It should keep in your refrigerator for up to 1 year.

If you find you’d like even more ginger intensity, try adding another tablespoon or two of fresh grated ginger during the secondary fermentation process.

How to brew an alcoholic ginger beer at home - we show you the easy way and talk about some advanced tips as well.
  • Brent says:

    Thank you for your website. I started a batch of the ginger beer using your recipe. It took off like a champ. The air lock was bubbling every 7-8 seconds during day two. On day three, it appears to have stopped. This early in, should I add yeast nutrient with some water and brown sugar to see if that restarts the fermentation? I am new to making ginger beer and not as certain what to expect in terms of the primary fermentation?

    Thanks

    B

    • Bill Osuch says:

      If you had an active fermentation (lots of bubbles) and now there’s nothing, then more than likely the process is complete. Depending on the type of yeast used, it’s very possible that it only needed 3 days. You could add some additional sugar (it probably wouldn’t need yeast nutrient), but keep in mind that will raise the ABV%. I like mine relatively low, at about 3-4%.

      Honestly, unless you’re just paying a fortune for ginger, I would suggest just finishing up the recipe as written, and doing a taste test. You can always get another batch going with more sugar pretty easily if you’d like to compare.

  • Sizwe says:

    Hi Bill

    Need some help actually
    . Me and a friend made a batch of ginger followed the instructions here to the T. (except we didnt add the sweetener ) but the problem we are experiencing is that our Ginger is still “fermenting” (if thats the right word) whilst in the bottles (we are using 330ml beer bottles) so everytime we open one up its very carbonated and Fizzes and we lose atleast 1/3 to 1/2 of the ginger because it became foam

    (I hope I am making some kind of sense) please advise:

    1. How can we slow down the fermentation process after bottling so that the ginger does not everytime we open a bottle?

    2. What temperature should the ginger be stored at after bottling ?

    • Bill Osuch says:

      Are you sure the fermentation was completely finished before bottling – did you have any bubbles still happening in the airlock?
      Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do with the current batch, since the pressure has already built up inside the bottle. On future batches, you can try a few things:
      – Use less brown sugar for the carbonation process – try 1/8 cup instead, and make sure all fermentation has stopped before adding it
      – Refrigerating will slow down (but not completely stop) fermentation, and pasteurizing the bottles (see the link here) will completely stop it. Any pressure that is built up inside the bottles will still be there.

  • Beth Knodt says:

    When you say to let it sit for a month do you mean let it sit out for the full month or wait until the the water bottle is rock hard and then transfer to the fridge and let them sit for a month?

    • Bill Osuch says:

      Sit for a month in the fridge – if you have them out at room temperature for a month, the fermentation process will continue and you’ll wind up with either exploding or gushing bottles.

  • Jesse says:

    2.5 lbs of ginger was alot. Mine came out super gingery and during the brew process, the ginger took up almost half of my gallon container (as it floated). Did this recipe call for 2.5 lbs or 2.5 cups of ginger root?

    • Bill Osuch says:

      I like a pretty serious ginger flavor (to me, Canada Dry is watery!), so I used the full 2.5 pounds. If you want less of a ginger bite, then just cut that down to maybe 1.5 to 2 pounds.

  • Jennifer says:

    Hi, I grow ginger so would love to try this. It says I can’t use sugar but I can’t tolerate stevia, sugar alcohols, or anything like that… what could I use to sweeten it?? They certainly didn’t use to have stevia, xylitol etc. – what did “they” originally use?

    • Bill Osuch says:

      In order to sweeten with regular sugar, you would have to kill the yeast so that it can’t keep producing alcohol. You’d do this either by using Campden tablets (sodium bisulfite), potassium sorbate, or possibly bottling, pasteurizing the bottles, and then opening them back up to sweeten. The drawback to this is that you won’t be able to make a sparkling drink.

  • Oran Kennedy says:

    I am following this recipe for the first time and the initial fermentation has just finished. Today I will transfer it to the secondary fermenter but I have some questions:
    What is the purpose of leaving it for 2 weeks? Is this just to let it settle fully to remove the majority of the sediment?
    Should I attach the fermentation lock again or just seal the bottle?
    When I top up the bottle with water, should I boil it first and allow it to cool to ensure no contamination from the water?
    Finally, will the yeast stay alive even without sugar for the 2 weeks? I am concerned that after I bottle the ginger-beer I will not get any carbonation.

    Thanks for the recipe and any answers to these questions.

    • Bill Osuch says:

      Once you transfer to the secondary, it’s likely the fermentation process will still be going on, just at a much slower pace. But yes, the main purpose is to allow it to settle. You still need to use a fermentation lock.

      It certainly wouldn’t hurt to boil the water used to top off – that will remove any chlorine if nothing else. But it probably won’t hurt anything if you don’t, you’re only adding a small amount to top off the jug.

      Yes, the yeast will stay alive even after they’ve consumed the sugar, the fermentation process will just go dormant. Once you give the ginger beer some sort of priming sugar to carbonate, they’ll wake back up again!

  • Sebastian says:

    Hello:

    it will ferment if i use bread yeast? it´s the most cheap and easy to find yeast in my country (chile), because i dont know where to buy champagne yeast.
    Maybe if i use an cider or beer yeast would work?.

    Greetings.

    • Bill Osuch says:

      Any type of yeast will work – if you use bread yeast it may have a slightly different flavor when it’s done fermenting though… you would just have to experiment. If you’re able to find a cider yeast that would work fine.

  • Eric Landry says:

    I only just got my batch into bottles, but it’s tasting amazing so far! Thanks for the recipe!

    Next time, I’ll throw in some extra ginger in the second fermentation. I want it to hurt a bit!

  • Lefty Yunger says:

    When I put it in the second fermentation process, can I add a little more sugar or/and yeast to make it a stronger alcohol content?

  • Benda says:

    Do you use the entire packet of yeast or did I miss the specific amount?

  • mr_regnig says:

    Wow! This tutorial is so much better the all the other ones that I have seen on the Internet. This is like a real beer not just a sweet ginger flavored drink. I cannot wait to try it! I bought a ginger beer in a store once but it was way too sweet. I will leave out the non-fermentable sweetener because I do not like taste of sweetness in my drinks. Thanks for the cool article!

  • Matt says:

    Bill –

    Is brewers (concentrated corn) sugar acceptable for this recipe in attempts to increase the abv but not the sugary flavor?

    Also, can this recipe be adapted to higher volumes ie. 5+ gallons? Thanks in advance,

    – Matt.

    • Bill Osuch says:

      Yes, you can use corn sugar or even just a greater quantity of any sugar to increase the alcohol percentage, just test with a hydrometer before starting the fermentation.
      You can increase the amount you make just by multiplying all of the ingredients except for the yeast – yeast multiplies, so a single packet works just as well for 1 gallon as it does for 5.

  • Em & Ian says:

    Hi we followed your instructions faithfully and are racking this now. We taste tested it and it honestly tastes horrible. Can we expect the flavor to improve over time? Is there something that may have gone wrong?

    Thanks,
    Em & Ian

    • Bill Osuch says:

      The flavor might get a little better over time, but it’s not going to go from bad to good. If it’s got a really bad taste, then that’s probably a result of some sort of contamination – possibly bacteria, too much oxygen getting in during fermentation, etc.

  • Valybobs says:

    Just finished bottling my first attempt at this. Very impressed so far! All the best from the Highlands of Scotland 🙂

  • Jeff says:

    Hi Bill,

    I’m going to be starting this tomorrow, but was just wondering about scaling things up a bit. If I wanted to do a 5 gallon carboy batch, how would you recommend scaling up the ingredients? Thanks much!

    • Bill Osuch says:

      For a larger batch, I would definitely recommend using both a primary and secondary fermenter. If you can find a 6-gallon food-grade bucket for the primary fermentation, that would be ideal (since you’ll lose the volume of the ginger and some liquid when racking to a 5 gallon carboy), but a 5-gallon will do if you can’t. For ingredients, try:
      3-5 lb Ginger Root
      5 gallons Water (less if using a 5-gallon bucket)
      7 ½ c Packed Brown Sugar
      2-3 c Lemon Juice
      1 package Champagne Yeast (don’t need to increase this, since yeast multiplies)

  • Kendra says:

    I’m impatient. Is the secondary fermentation necessary if I don’t care about clarity?

    • Bill Osuch says:

      The secondary fermentation isn’t just to filter out the sediment, the time is needed for the alcohol to actually form and the flavor to come out properly.

  • Barb says:

    I just started my secondary fermentation and was wondering if there’s anything I can do with the used ginger. Would it be safe to put in my compost? Or do you have any other suggestions? Thanks for this recipe and in depth directions. I’m so excited to taste this.

  • Steve says:

    Any thoughts on using a ginger bug versus using yeast?

    • Bill Osuch says:

      It’s certainly an option, but cultivating a natural ginger bug is quite a bit more tricky, and it’s something that you have to maintain and take care of even when you’re not brewing.

  • Dan says:

    So I made a one gallon batch, have bottled it, I am still waiting on the carbonation to start happening and it has been 10 days at room temp, how long does it generally take to happen? Still tasting flat?

    • Bill Osuch says:

      Assuming you added additional fermentable sugar before bottling, it should have started fermenting (and carbonating) again very quickly (within a day or two). You might try adding just a little more sugar, and make sure the bottles aren’t in too cool of an area.

  • gingerguy says:

    I used this recipe for a 1 gallon amount.
    2 lbs fresh ginger
    1 cup buckwheat honey
    2 cups brown sugar
    1 cup fresh lemon juice
    1 package Safale US-05

    The honey addition makes it taste a little better in my opinion. I used a bucket to ferment instead of a jar because it is easy to get the ginger out. I got over 5.0% alcohol! The hydrometer is great for knowing how much alcohol is in the brew.

  • Jim says:

    I used your recipe plus the pulp of one orange; also a plastic primary fermenter bucket. I had some difficulty racking the first time because ginger kept clogging my racking cane; I ended up straining the last of it because my siphon wouldn’t work anymore. It’s now in glass gallon secondary fermenter and has a lovely yellow color, very opaque but some particulates are still settling out. Had about a pint of leftover strained liquid and filled a glass and tasted after chilling… it’s good! Very excited and want to start another batch soon. Thanks for a great informative and inspiring how-to!!!

  • Phil says:

    Hi Bill,

    I did your mead recipe and it turned out well, so now I’m here! I did a little twist on this recipe; half the ginger beer recipe and half the hard apple cider recipe. Also added a half a cup of lavender for some infused goodness.

    So:
    1½ lb Ginger Root
    6c of water
    ¾ cup brown sugar
    ½ cup of lemon juice
    ½ gallon of Organic Apple Juice
    ½ cup of Lavender
    1 package of Champagne Yeast

    Do you have any pointers for this combination?

    Best,

    -Phil

  • Albert says:

    Hi
    Can I use dextrose instead of brown sugar?
    I also want to add more sugar to up the abv to 6%

  • Brian says:

    If you wanted to scale this recipe up for a five gallon batch. Any recommendations on how to have two cases of 12 oz capped bottles, carbonated with out taking up gobs of fridge space for one month.

  • Gary says:

    I’m wondering when bottling if I put a slice of candied ginger in each bottle for carbonation will it work. I have quite a bit of the ginger some of which I used in this batch of brew.

  • Jennifer says:

    Hello,

    Can I put the ginger in a muslin bag during primary or does it have to be loose? I think use of a muslin bag would keep it a lot cleaner and make it easier to transfer to secondary. Thanks in advance, really looking forward to making this!

  • Clissa says:

    For my first experiment I’ve just made a half batch.
    When you say to add one packet of yeast, do you mean a sachet?
    Here in Oz, bread yeast is sold in bulk 300g containers or 7g sachets at the grocery store.
    I would need to mail order any other type of yeast.
    Would I be right in my thinking that I won’t need to use the whole 7g sachet since I am only making a half sized batch?
    Probably won’t be able to make alcoholic since only normal white sugar is available at the grocery store. Although there is another type some use to make jam but I have not investigated that yet.
    I just want a nice tasting carbonated soft drink. Doesnt have to be super sweet.
    If carbonation via this process is too hard, should I just buy a soda stream and use the plant liquid as the syrup?

    • Bill Osuch says:

      Here most of our yeast packets are 5 grams, so yours are about the same. When using bread yeast, though, you might find some of the yeast taste is left in the final brew.

      You can use white sugar instead of brown; I just like brown sugar personally because of the flavor it gives.

  • Sylvia says:

    Wondering the reason you use brown sugar vs regular cane sugar or raw sugar?

    • Bill Osuch says:

      Brown sugar gives it hints of caramel and rum flavors, but it’s just a personal preference. Any natural sugar will work. Try and batch with brown and one with white and see which you like better!

  • Mr_Scientist says:

    Consider blending the ginger root up very, very finely in a heavy duty blender. Then straining the fibers out before boiling the mixture. That way you will not have the problem of removing the ginger pieces out of the bottle which can be quite difficult.

  • Angela says:

    Can I use regular organic sugar instead of brown sugar? What will the difference be?

  • Paul G. says:

    What the hell is a c?
    I am a chemist, but don’t know it.

  • Lori says:

    Hi Bill!
    Is a warmer or cooler room better for the fermentation process?

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