Sunday, February 10, 2013
I have well and truly caught the brewers bug, I’ve just bottled the fourth batch, three of which were traditional ales, for the fourth I decided to try my hand at a dry boozy ginger beer, perfect for a hot day, well it threw me a few curveballs along the way, mainly that I think the yeast I chose was a wee bit too efficient and my nice mellow 4-5% plan ran rampant to a killer dry spicy 8%, fortunately it doesn’t have that ‘alcohol’ taste you can get when with some higher percentage beverages.
The below recipe is for a 20 litre batch and for those interested in giving it ago but lack the equipment (fermenter, hydrometer and sterilizer) I’d advise to skip the $100 starter kits you can get at supermarkets and brew shops and buy the components separately it’ll save you a considerable amount of money, a fermenter (with airlock, thermometer and tap) will cost about $30 and hydrometer will set you back about $10. Go chat to your local brew shop and I’m sure the staff will be happy to set you up, if you’re in Wellington The Brew House in Newtown is excellent.
You should be able to buy all of the ingredients for this in a supermarket, the only iffy one is dextrose, but most larger stores usually have a little brew section near the wine and beer these days. Dextrose is used instead of common sugar (Sucrose) as yeast can convert it more efficiently.
10 Litres of Water for the boil
2 Kg Dextrose
1 Kg Brown Sugar
500 ml Lemon juice (and the rinds from the lemons)
Yeast (I used Vintner's Harvest CL23 Wine Yeast)
I imagine if you had a juicer it may be easier to tackle the ginger but I don’t, so in a blender with water in batches whiz up the ginger to make a coarse paste and dump the contents into a large pot (16 litre or bigger). Add the remaining water along with the lemon rind and bring to a simmer, let it bubble away for an hour or so until you have a very strong ginger tea and the pulverised ginger has given up its flavour.
Pour the liquid into the fermenter, using some cheesecloth to strain out the solids. Give the pot a quick rinse out and pour the liquid back into the pot and put on the heat. While stirring add the lemon juice, dextrose and brown sugar, bring to the boil. Let it boil for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile wash and sterilise the fermenter (follow the instructions on of whichever type of steriliser you have).
When the 15 minutes is up pour the liquid into the fermenter and top up to 20 litres with cold water. It needs to cool down to about 20°C before its gravity can be tested. When it’s finally cooled down, take enough liquid to fill up the hydrometer testing tube three quarters of the way up and test, it should read about 1.054, take a note of the result as this is the Original Gravity (OG) and will be used later to figure out the ABV (Alcohol By Volume). Stir in the yeast and put it in a not too cool dark spot for 2-3 weeks, I keep mine under the stairs and it’s a pretty constant 15°C.
The brew will be ready to bottle once the hydrometer reading has been constant for 2-3 days, which means the fermentation has stopped. I expected this brew to be ready after 10-14 days and have a Final Gravity (FG) reading of 1.014, I was very very wrong and it ended up taking 22 days at ended up at 0.992. To figure out what the ABV of your brew is use this formula: (OG-FG) x 131.25, so (1.054 - 0.992) x 131.25 = ABV of 8.14%.
When it finally stops fermenting it’s time to bottle, now you can syphon the brew off to another bucket with 130 grams of dextrose and then bottle from there, or if you want the quick easy method, use carbonation drops (most supermarkets will have in the same section as the dextrose, or get from a brew shop) which are essentially dextrose tablets, use 2 per 750ml bottle. Once you’ve had the pleasure of cleaning, sterilising and filling 25 bottles, store them in the same place you kept the fermenter and leave for 2 weeks, at which point the they should've carbonated and be ready to drink, if not don’t panic and just wait another week, it will happen it sometimes just takes a little extra time.