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As early as 500 BC, ginger was used as a medicine and for flavouring food in Ancient China and India. In the western hemisphere, ginger was used to spice up drinks. During the Victorian era, it was used to brew an alcoholic beverage termed "ginger beer".
Brewed ginger beer originated in Yorkshire in England in the mid-18th century and became popular throughout Britain, the United States, and Canada, reaching a peak of popularity in the early 20th century.
Brewed ginger beer was brought to the Ionian Islands by the British Army in the 19th century, and is still made as a local specialty known as tsitsibíra (τσιτσιμπίρα) by villagers in rural Corfu. Today, ginger beer is usually produced as a soft drink. Ginger beer and ginger ale as soft drinks have been moderately popular in many parts of the world since they were introduced.
|This section's factual accuracy is disputed. (August 2013)|
The original recipe requires only ginger, sugar, water, lemon juice and a fungal-bacterial symbiote known as a ginger beer plant. Fermentation over a few days turns the mixture into ginger beer.
Forms of live culture other than the ginger beer plant can produce a fermented ginger beer. Cultures used include brewers or baker's yeast, lactic acid bacteria, kefir grains, and tibicos. Brewing ginger beer generates carbon dioxide as in beer. The alcohol content, when produced by the traditional process can be high, up to 11%, although ginger beer is usually brewed with much less alcohol.
Brewed ginger beer often includes other flavorings, prominently lemon or lime juice. These juices are not merely ornamental, however, as they establish an acidic pH balance for the solution; this helps in both protecting the ginger beer from other cultures and facilitating sugar inversion to increase the availability of the more readily metabolised fructose and glucose. Other, more strictly flavoring-specific, elements have often included citrus zests, cayenne pepper and other hot spices, and admixtures from other brews, such as nettle or dandelion beers.
Ginger beer plant
Ginger beer plant (GBP) is not what is usually considered a plant but a composite organism consisting of a fungus, the yeast Saccharomyces florentinus (formerly S. pyriformis), and the bacterium Lactobacillus hilgardii (formerly Brevibacterium vermiforme), which form a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. It forms a gelatinous substance that allows it to be easily transferred from one fermenting substrate to the next, much like kefir grains, kombucha, and tibicos.
The GBP was first described by Harry Marshall Ward in 1892, from samples he received in 1887. Original ginger beer is made by leaving water, sugar, ginger, and GBP to ferment. GBP may be obtained from several commercial sources or from yeast banks.
Alcoholic ginger beer
Brewed ginger beer originated in the UK, but is sold worldwide. Shakemantle Ginger Ale has been around since at least 2001 if not earlier. Crabbie's is a popular brand in the UK. Other popular ginger beers include Stoney's. It is usually labelled "alcoholic ginger beer" to distinguish it from the more established commercial ginger beers, which are not brewed (fermented), but carbonated with pressurized carbon dioxide.
Non Alcoholic Ginger Beer
Luscombe Organic Drinks introduced two organic non-alcoholic brewed ginger beers, Hot Ginger Beer and Cool Ginger Beer, in the UK in 1998. Using traditional methods, Luscombe mills, rinses and washes the root ginger by hand to extract gingerols and adds lemon juice and cane sugar. Both Ginger Beers have won Great Taste Awards, most recently 2013.
The ginger beer soft drink may be mixed with beer (usually a British ale of some sort) to make one type of shandy, or with dark rum to make a drink, originally from Bermuda, called a Dark 'N' Stormy. It is the main ingredient in the Moscow Mule cocktail (although in some cases ginger ale is used as an alternative, where ginger beer is not available).
- Thomas Sprat (1702) A history of the Royal Society of London, page 196 "of Brewing Beer with Ginger instead of Hops"
- Donald Yates (Spring 2003). "Root Beer and Ginger Beer heritage". Retrieved 2006-12-06.
- Nick Edwards & John Gill, "The Rough Guide to Corfu." Rough Guides (2003) p.87
- "Ginger — ginger beer plant". Plant Cultures. 16 June 2006. Retrieved 2012-09-15.
- "Lactic Acid Beverages: sour beer, (milk) & soda". 22 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-06YOU.
- Walter Donald Daker; Maurice Stakey (14 September 1938). "CCLI. Investigation of a Polysaccharide Produced From Sucrose by Betabacterium Vermiformé (Ward-Meyer)" (pdf). Retrieved 2006-12-07.
- "Harry Marshall Ward : Biography". Retrieved 2006-12-06.
- Vines, Gail (28 September 2002). "Marriage of equals". New Scientist (2362): 50.
- New Scientist article (alternative source)
- This is NOT a valid DSM catalog number DSM 2484 - Ginger beer plant from yeast bank
- "Freeminer Shakemantle Ginger Beer". Ratebeer.com. 7 October 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-07.
- Bassett, Win (November 15, 2012). "Crabbie’s, The Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer, Debuts in United States". All About Beer Magazine. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
- "Stronger than the strongest thirst". Coca Cola South Africa. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
- Knowlton, Andrew (January 22, 2013). "A Bottle in Front of Me Crabbie's". BON APPÉTIT. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
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- Of the Street Sale of Ginger-Beer, Sherbet, Lemonade,&C., from London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1, Henry Mayhew, 1851; subsequent pages cover the costs and income of street ginger beer sellers.