Fermented vs Non-Fermented Ginger Beer

This week I was asked to make a cocktail for an event for 20-30 people, where I was told that the person being honored at the event was not a drinker.

I didn’t have any help, so I wanted to do something really easy. No muddling, no shaking, no straining.

I decided to go with a version of the Dark & Stormy, which is a combination of Dark Rum, Ginger Beer, and sometimes Lime Juice.

Because I had the non-drinker, instead of making alcoholic ginger beer, I just made a Ginger Syrup, or Ginger Solution.

Place an equal part, by weight of roughly chopped ginger root, sugar, and water in the blender, and puree. Put through a cheese cloth or other fine strainer, and squeeze as much liquid out as you can (I use a sturdy potato ricer for this).

To make the non-alcoholic version, combine Ginger Solution, lime juice, to taste on ice. Stir to combine ad and dilute with soda water. Stir once more.

Dark & Stormy-ish

Dark & Stormy-ish

To make the alcoholic version, to that combination simply float* on an ounce and a half of dark rum**. Pampero Anniversario, from Venezuela, is a great choice.

The thing that interested me, however, about this was how different the character of the Ginger Solution was from yeast carbonated Ginger Beer.

If I combine the Ginger solution with soda water in roughly the same ratio as I did for the yeast carbonated ginger beer, the difference is striking.

First off, it is unpleasantly harsh and hot. Instead of the nifty floral notes of ginger, you get a bitter aftertaste.

I really enjoy drinking the yeast carbonated ginger beer, but the ginger solution is more like medicine.

I’ll drink it, with enough rum, lime, and soda, but I don’t crave it.

I would guess the yeast bouncing around with the ginger creates some flavor molecules that just don’t happen without fermentation.

It also seems to have a shorter shelf life than the fermented ginger beer.

Now, only a few days after, where the ginger beer is still delicious, the ginger solution is getting less ginger-ey and more unpleasant.

*Some bartenders will shake the non-carbonated portion of the drink, pour over ice, and top with soda or ginger beer. I think it looks cooler with the dark rum float. The only problem is all the rum is at the top of the drink, so it should really be served with a straw, preferably compostable.

**Some bartenders make a much more alcoholic version, basically shaking a Daiquiri, pouring over rocks, topping with ginger beer and more dark rum.

Ginger Beer, Take 2

Everyone liked the last batch of Ginger Beer so much, I felt like I had to make another.

I’m doubling the last batch of yeast carbonated ginger beer, and making a few changes to the method from the last.

Flannestad Ginger Beer.

INGREDIENTS:
10 oz well rinsed fresh Ginger Root, preferably organic, roughly sliced.
1 1/2 cup Washed Raw Sugar.
2 quart Water.
1 teaspoon active dry yeast.*

METHOD: Bloom yeast in lukewarm water with 1 teaspoon sugar. Bring 24 oz water and all sugar to simmer. Add ginger to blender bowl with remaining water and puree. (Blender works well for me in these amounts, but if you have a juicer that can juice ginger root, go for it.) Pour through cheesecloth to filter. Press as much liquid out of ginger solids as possible, I use a sturdy potato ricer. Add ginger juice and water to hot sugar solution and cool to lukewarm. Add yeast and bottle in clean sanitized containers, leaving some headroom. Seal tightly and place in a warm dark place for 5-8 hours, depending on temperature and how feisty your yeast is. Move to refrigeration when the bottles are firm to the touch. Yeast (tan) and Ginger starch (white) will fall out of solution. When serving, open carefully over bowl to catch potential over-foam.

Ginger Root.

Ginger Root.

The first change I made this time was just to rinse the ginger root well with warm water, instead of peeling. I need to do a side by side comparison with peeled and unpeeled to find out if peeling makes a difference in flavor. Really, the only thing which slightly concerns me about not peeling is the potential for bacterial contamination from the skins.

This time, the ginger root was quite a bit more mature than the last. The flavor of the juice and ginger beer is hotter and sweeter than the more floral young ginger I used last time.

Ginger Puck.

Ginger Puck.

Nicely formed ginger pucks, after squeezing. You could dry them and use for room fresheners.

Opening Ginger Beer.

Opening Ginger Beer.

I continue to use empty soda water and mineral water for the ginger beer. Easier and safer than glass, at this point. You can gauge the carbonation level easily by simply squeezing the bottle and checking the firmness. Some small risk they’ll pop the caps and make a mess, but little risk they will become ginger grenades. Once I get the ferment times down, I may switch to bottling in glass.

Interestingly enough, it seems like the canada dry soda water bottles form a much better seal than the crystal geyser mineral water bottles. With the same time allowed for fermentation, the ginger beer in the canada dry bottles over-flows copiously, while the ginger beer in the crystal geyser is carbonated but does not overflow. Perhaps there is some CO2 leakage with the crystal geyser bottles above a certain pressure threshold.

Bottles.

Bottles.

A lot of other ginger beer recipes use spices or citrus in them, I actually really like how this is just about how complex and multilayered a flavor pure ginger root has. The complexity you get is amazing, not to mention the length of the flavor. You start by enjoying the great smell of fresh ginger root in the carbonated bubbles with a touch of yeast, enjoy the sweet and floral flavor, are knocked back by the heat, and then enjoy the long evolving flavor as it fades.

I guess we have the temperance movement to thank for the prevalence of pressure carbonated ginger beers and other sodas, but maybe if more people give the real thing a try we can get some of this real flavor back. With yeast nutrients, real sugar, and natural ginger maybe these could gain as much traction as kombucha.

Commercial ginger beers and ales, pumped up with capsaicin for heat and with their flacid ginger flavor from extracts, are poor, poor substitutes, indeed, for real ginger beer.

*Yeast plus sugar and water equals Carbon Dioxide and alcohol. In general, stopping the active fermentation at this early a stage of fermentation, the alcohol levels should be fairly low.

BOTW–Fall Down Brown

Oh, oops. It certainly has been a long time since I did a Beer of the Week post.

Unless you count the Beer & Amaro Posts, it was fall of 2011 the last time I did a BOTW!

So lazy!

Turns out, I’m still drinking beer from Barley and other fermentables, not just beer from Roots.

Ale Industries Fall Down Brown.

Ale Industries Fall Down Brown.

Ale Industries Fall Down Brown

“Fall Down Brown – 8.25% ABV

“Fall Down Brown is our Fall seasonal. It is a brown ale that has been brewed with smoked pumpkin. FDB drinks more like a Rauch Beer than a traditional pumpkin beer. Don’t expect to taste pie with this one!”

We’re pumpkin beer fans here at SavoyStomp, but even we are a little confused exactly what that means.

Is it an Ale brewed with Pumpkin? Is it an Ale flavored with “Pumpkin Pie Spice”? Is it an Ale brewed with Pumpkin & Pumpkin Pie Spice? Examples of all three of these scenarios, (and more!) exist.

Originally, I think it was just an Ale brewed with Pumpkin. Settlers in the Americas desperate for beer/booze, cast about for whatever native plants they could possibly find with sugars and carbohydrates, even minimal amounts, and one of the few they came up with was Pumpkin and other Winter Squash.

Turns out, plain pumpkin doesn’t have a super lot of sugar, nor does it have a lot of flavor or character.

I guess that’s why we pump our pumpkin pies full of spices, ginger, and sugar.

But, when you’re desperate, you’re desperate.

Nowadays, many pumpkin beers don’t even involve pumpkin, are just beers flavored with Pumpkin Pie Spice.

Ale Industries, have taken another tack. They are smoking actual pumpkins and using them in their beer.

As they say above, this doesn’t taste like a glass of Pumpkin Pie, more like an ale brewed with smoked malt, a la the German tradition of RauchBier.

As smoked ales go, this is pretty tasty. But, then, beer from Ale Industries rarely disappoints.

On the other hand, if pumpkin contributes little flavor to a beer, why use it at all?

Well, it is a great label, and an interesting and seasonal, maybe even traditional, take on pumpkin ale.

Sometimes the best answer is, “Why Not?” or, “Because we could.”

I respect that aesthetic.

Picon Biere #7

One of the classic combinations in certain regions of France is Picon Biere, that is a Pilsener or Wheat beer with a splash of Amer Picon poured in.

Unfortunately, we don’t get Amer Picon here in these United States.

However, even if Diageo refuses to send us Amer Picon, we do get a lot of other Amaros…

With this series of posts we shall explore the possibilities we do have available.

Well, sometimes you do have Amer Picon available.

So let’s say you’re scanning the shelves behind the bar for interesting things, as I often do.

Perhaps you see a bottle that looks a little like this:

Amer Picon

What do you do?

Amer Picon

Trumer Pilsener & Amer Picon

METHOD: Pour beer into the mason jar or glass of your choosing. Pour in 3/4 ounce (or to taste) of Amer Picon.

Well, the polite thing is to observe the bottle with some degree of apparent awe. Someone probably had to carry the damn thing back in their suitcase from Europe, for gosh sakes. Ask your bartender politely, if that might be a bottle of Amer Picon. If he acknowledges your query positively, ask if he wouldn’t mind making you a Picon Biere.

Now it is possible that your bartender type will take some offense at this notion, that you might waste his precious Amer Picon in Beer. In which case, perhaps, if it seems the situation is salvageable, ask for a Brooklyn or Creole Cocktail. Whew.

Picon Biere

However, if your bartender is as nice as Kevin Diedrich at Jasper’s Corner Tap, he might be impressed that you have ordered a Picon Biere and gladly make one for you. Though do note, the label says this is, “Kevin’s Bottle,” so don’t be offended if he doesn’t oblige.

Amer Biere #6

One of the classic combinations in certain regions of France is Picon Biere, that is a Pilsener or Wheat beer with a splash of Amer Picon poured in.

Unfortunately, we don’t get Amer Picon here in these United States.

However, even if Diageo refuses to send us Amer Picon, we do get a lot of other Amaros…

With this series of posts we shall explore the possibilities we do have available.

Amer Biere #6

Ommegang Witte & Torani Amer

If we don’t get Amer Picon in the US, what do we get? Well, a fine Bay Area Company took it upon themselves to create a replacement, so the Basque community in Northern California could have their Picon Punch.

Torani Amer

San Francisco’s favorite for 65 yrs. Mix ice, grenandine & amer for a pleasant drink.

Yeah, fine, pleasant, even, San Francisco’s favorite, yadda, yadda, yadda. So is rice-a-roni, apparently, and Irish Coffee.

Torani Amer is really pretty dreadful. Every time I try it, my first thought is, “Who spilled the orange aftershave in my drink?” My second thought is, “Oh, that’s what chemical Caramel Color tastes like.” My third thought is, “I really should pour this down this sink.”

Witte is our version of the classic Belgian wit or “white” ale. Witte, which is actually Flemish for white, is brewed with malted and unmalted wheat, orange peel, and coriander – offering a refreshing style that showcases the Belgian talent for brewing full-flavored ales that are also light and balanced. It is pale straw in color, slightly hazy from the yeast, and topped with a huge white, fluffy head.

Witte is pleasantly light on the tongue, balanced between malt and wheat sweetness. Hops and spice with a subtle clove note baked by flavors of lemon and sweet orange give way to a dry, crisp, refreshing finish.

I like most Ommegang beers. They were one of the first beer brewers in the US to embrace Belgian style beer. I always feel like their beers are not quite as nuanced as their Belgian inspirations, but they are always good. Interestingly, in 2003, the founders of Ommegang sold their shares of the brewery to the Belgian brewery Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat.

METHOD: Pour a beer into the mason jar or glass of your choosing. (Really, take my word for it, don’t do it, just don’t! Use Amaro Ciociaro, or some other Orange flavored Amaro instead!) Pour in a half shot (2cl) of Torani Amer.

Yeah, I did make this, and I did pour it down the sink. Waste of a perfectly good beer. I added Amaro Ciociaro to the next one and I felt a lot better.

Total Gentian Domination #5

One of the classic combinations in certain regions of France is Picon Biere, that is a Pilsener or Wheat beer with a splash of Amer Picon poured in.

Unfortunately, we don’t get Amer Picon here in these United States.

However, even if Diageo refuses to send us Amer Picon, we do get a lot of other Amaros…

With this series of posts we shall explore the possibilities we do have available.

Ninkasi Total Domination IPA & Salers Aperitif

Total Gentian Domination

Usually, when creating drinks, you strive for balance. Something not too sweet, not too sour, not too bitter. Sometimes, however, it is interesting to layer flavors. I think of Cajun or Chinese Food, where the cooks sometimes layer different types of spice or heat, some from black pepper or Szechuan peppercorns, some from chiles, some from Ginger, and some from freshly cut onions, to create layered flavor sensations in a single dish.

I like many West Coast hoppy beers, as long as they aren’t too extreme, (Moylan’s Hopsickle, I am looking at you,) and was mulling over how to feature one in this series of drinks. Thinking about them, Gentian came to mind. Both hops and Gentian have a sharp bitterness, but the Hops are sharp higher flavors, where Gentian comes in with lower notes and earthiness. Not only that, but it ties in with an ancient style of beer, Purl, which was a sort of morning-after tonic beer, brewed with Gentian or wormwood, spices, and bitter oranges.

I like most things that Ninkasi brews, even their comically named, heavy metal themed Holiday beer, Sleigher.

Total Domination IPA

Statistics
First Brewed: 2006
Starting Gravity: 1067
Bitterness: 65 IBUs
Alcohol %: 6.7
Malt: 2 Row Pale Malt, Munich Malt, Carahell Malt
Hops: Summit, Amarillo, Crystal

On the bottle:
Multiple hops collide in balanced perfection, dominating the senses, achieving total satisfaction. From the Pacific Northwest, birthplace of the modern IPA, comes a beer whose name says it all.

Tasting Notes:
Total Domination has a citrusy, floral hop aroma, and big hop flavor balanced with a richness imparted by Carahell and Munich malts. This beer is a big flavorful Northwest IPA that maintains its drinkability, and as such has garnered great admiration from the novice craft drinker and the seasoned hop head alike.

I had a beer, what about a Gentian Aperitif? My favorite of the two or three that are currently avaiable is Salers. It doesn’t use adjunct flavorings or colorings to the extent that Suze does and it strikes me as slightly more interesting than Aveze.

One of the most classic of French aperitifs is a pour of gentiane liqueur on the rocks with a squeeze of lemon. Salers is today the oldest of the producers and also from the Massif Central, birthplace to this style of product. Unlike the large corporate producers that today add artificial colorant, Salers is all natural, with a drier and rustic character that has historically defined this drink. True to its roots, Salers sources its gentiane solely from the Auvergne. Enjoy in a traditional manner with ice and lemon, or in a variety of mixed drinks.

METHOD: Pour a beer into the mason jar or glass of your choosing. Pour in a half shot (2cl) of Salers Aperitif.

The combination of Pacific Northwest IPA and Gentian Aperitif may not be for everyone, but it certainly perked up my taste buds enough to have two glasses. Definitely a tonic of sorts.

Beer-Fashioned #4

One of the classic combinations in certain regions of France is Picon Biere, that is a Pilsener or Wheat beer with a splash of Amer Picon poured in.

Unfortunately, we don’t get Amer Picon here in these United States.

However, even if Diageo refuses to send us Amer Picon, we do get a lot of other Amaros…

With this series of posts we shall explore the possibilities we do have available.

Beer-Fashioned

2008 Goose Island Bourbon County Stout & Angostura Bitters

To be honest, I’m not over fond of most examples of beers aged in spirits barrels. They are usually too alcoholic and too sweet. If you want a beer and a shot, pour yourself a beer and a shot.

Brewer’s Notes:
Brewed in honor of the 1000th batch at our original Clybourn brewpub. A liquid as dark and dense as a black hole with thick foam the color of a bourbon barrel. The nose is an intense mix of charred oak, chocolate, vanilla, caramel and smoke. One sip has more flavor than your average case of beer.

Recipe Information:
Style: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
Alcohol by Volume: 14.5%
International Bitterness Units: 60
Color: Midnight
Hops: Willamette
Malt: 2-Row, Munich, Chocolate, Caramel, Roast Barley, Debittered Black

The Goose Island Bourbon County Stout is a well regarded example of the style, but I still find it cloying and over alcoholic.

What do bartenders do when they find things cloying and alcoholic? Why, we add water (ice) and bitters.

Angostura Bitters is one of the two bitters brands which survived both prohibition and the great cocktail drought of the 50s through the 80s, the other being Fee’s. Angostura is made in Trinidad, my famous writer friend Camper English visited and wrote about them in detail on his website Alcademics in the article, “The History and Production of Angostura Bitters.”

An important, and somewhat arbitrary, distinction in bitters, and a relic of prohibition, is the difference between “potable” and “non-potable” bitters. During prohibition, if your bitters were considered “non-potable”, that is, undrinkable, you could continue to sell them, while “potable” bitters fell under the same bans as regular booze. In modern times, the difference comes down to, if your bitters are “non-potable”, you can sell them in grocery stores, and if they are “potable”, they have to be sold in liquor stores. Gary “Gaz” Regan tells the story that the early iterations of his Regan’s Orange Bitters were just too damn tasty and the TTB sent him back to the drawing board to make them less drinkable. Not that I don’t know people who drink Angostura bitters shots, but then, I do sometimes run with a rough crowd. On the other hand, Angostura bitters are a lot more intense than most Amari, so I will slightly reduce the amount I am using in this version of Amaro and Beer.

METHOD: Place a large ice cube into the mason jar or glass of your choosing. Pour in a quarter ounce of Angostura Bitters. Pour over a Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout. Stir briefly. Garnish optional.

Tasting this, sacrilege though it may be, I don’t think it is a horrible idea to serve the Bourbon County Stout on the rocks. The spice and bitterness from the bitters are kind of interesting, too. I skipped the fruit salad, aka garnish, probably best if you do too.

I still couldn’t finish the whole bottle.

Amaro Bomb #3

One of the classic combinations in certain regions of France is Picon Biere, that is a Pilsener or Wheat beer with a splash of Amer Picon poured in.

Unfortunately, we don’t get Amer Picon here in these United States.

However, even if Diageo refuses to send us Amer Picon, we do get a lot of other Amaros…

With this series of posts we shall explore the possibilities we do have available.

Amaro Beer 3

Hangar 24 Chocolate Porter and Fernet Branca

A while ago the folks from Hangar 24 were nice enough to send me a few of their beers in the mail. Not quite sure what I did to start receiving beer in the mail, but OK. One of the beers they sent was their chocolate porter. Fairly light, on the scale of extreme American Stouts and Porters, it’s pretty nice drinking.

Rich and decadent. This strong porter is perfect for sipping at the end of the day or to accompany full-flavored foods. The intense, roasty flavor comes from two types of chocolate malt and raw cocoa nibs. Whole vanilla beans introduced post fermentation add complexity and enhance the dessert-like qualities of this full bodied beer. Indulge yourself!

Ahem, I knew I wanted to use Fernet in one of these beer and amaro beverages, but how would the extreme menthol notes of that amaro work with a beer?

Mint Chocolate Cookies, that’s how!

METHOD: Pour a beer into the mason jar or glass of your choosing. Pour in a half shot (2cl) of Fernet Branca.

All Fernet menthol up front, the middle flavors are the chocolate and dark malt from the beer, and then lingering bitter notes.

Another keeper, I think.

Amaro Bomb #2

One of the classic combinations in certain regions of France is Picon Biere, that is a Pilsener or Wheat beer with a splash of Amer Picon poured in.

Unfortunately, we don’t get Amer Picon here in these United States.

However, even if Diageo refuses to send us Amer Picon, we do get a lot of other Amaros…

With this series of posts we shall explore the possibilities we do have available.

Amaro Beer 2

Amaro Ciociaro & Gordon Biersch Zwickel Bock

Gordon Biersch isn’t exactly a small craft brewer, more of a semi-large producer of beers. This beer has been staring at me from the shelf at Canyon Market for a while. With its attractive motto, “Never Trust a Skinny Brewer,” and resealable bottle. Who can resist an unfiltered lager?

This special unfiltered Hellerbock (Blonde Bock) was made by tapping directly into an aging tank of Blonde Bock via the Zwickel (German for “sample valve”). This unfiltered version is extraordinarily fresh and smooth creating a drinking experience previously only available at the brewery.

Regarding the whole “Amer Picon” controversy, a while ago, well regarded cocktail and spirits wordsmith David Wondrich tasted through his entire stock of Amaros, looking for the single Amaro which most closely resembled Amer Picon. At the time, he chose Amaro Ciociaro as closest, maybe being just a tad more herbal and needing a touch of extra bitter orange zest. His recommendation, Amaro Ciociaro with a dash of bitters.

METHOD: Pour a beer into the mason jar of your choosing. Pour in a half shot (2cl) of Amaro combined with a dash or two of Orange Bitters (I used Miracle Mile Orange Bitters).

I think I have gotten lucky again with this combination.

While the Zwickel Bock on its own might have been a tad sweet for my taste, the astringency of the Amaro and Orange Bitters cuts it a bit and lingers on in the aftertaste. Tasty.

Beer & Amaro #1

One of the classic combinations in certain regions of France is Picon Biere, that is a Pilsener or Wheat beer with a splash of Amer Picon poured in.

Unfortunately, we don’t get Amer Picon here in these United States.

However, we do get a lot of other Amaros…

With this series of posts we shall explore the possibilities we do have available.

Amaro Beer No 1

First up!

Amaro Nardini and Anchor California Lager

Amaro Nardini is a strongly flavored rich Amaro. Strong flavors of chocolate and a little menthol. Not super bitter, it is super delicious.

DESCRIPTION Digestive after-dinner liqueur with a pleasant and distinctive liquorice finish. Can be served straight, chilled or with ice.
INGREDIENTS Grain alcohol, bitter orange aroma, peppermint and gentian.
APPEARANCE Intense color of dark chocolate.
NOSE Perfect balance of aromatic components, intense scent of liquorice and mint.
PALATE Bitter, with an excellent fruit and herbal balance. A fresh impact of mint, the gentian offers a pleasurable finish of liquorice.

Anchor California Lager is a relatively new beer for Anchor Brewing. Similar in character to their Liberty Ale, it is a little lighter than that beer with a slightly different hop character.

CURRENTLY AVAILABLE IN CALIFORNIA ONLY

Anchor Steam’s® roots go back to the Gold Rush, long before icehouses and modern refrigeration made traditional lagers a viable California option. In 1876, thanks to an ice pond in the mountains and a belief that anything is possible in the Golden State, a little brewery named Boca created California’s first genuine lager. Anchor California Lager® is our re-creation of this historic beer.

Made in San Francisco with two-row California barley, Cluster hops (the premier hop in 19th-century California), and our own lager yeast, this all-malt brew is kräusened and lagered in our cellars. Its golden color, distinctive aroma, creamy head, balanced depth of flavor, and smooth finish make Anchor California Lager® a delicious celebration of California’s unique brewing heritage.

Method: Pour a half a beer into the mason jar of your choosing. Pour in a half shot (2cl) of Amaro.

I was afraid the Amaro would be too strong for the beer, but this is actually quite a pleasant combination, with the sweetness of the Amaro complementing nicely the beer.