hist-brewing: ginger mead & ale

JazzboBob at aol.com JazzboBob at aol.com
Mon Mar 11 21:18:18 PST 2002

I have received several requests for recipes for ginger.
My first brewing experience came from Charlie Papazian's Barkshack Ginger 
Mead.  Please check his Joy of Brewing text for the recipe.  I bet his recipe 
has inspired more mead brewers then anything else out there.  It's a 
versatile recipe and suitable to a wide amount of experimenting.  I use all 
honey instead of corn sugar.
My other inspiration comes from a gold winning AHA mead recipe done in 1991 
by Stephen Yuhas and Ed Gilles.  This is in Zymurgy Vol. 14, No. 4 Special 

I do a few types of Ginger Mead - Sparkling Dry, Sparkling Sweet, & Still 
They all start from a similar recipe, but I alter the character with the 
yeast selection and honey variety.

I use 14 to 15 # of honey and 5 to 6 ounces fresh ginger to brew a total 
volume of 5.5 gallons in the primary.  I like to add some yeast nutrient and 
1 Tablespoon tartaric acid, but purists can follow their own practices. The 
result is a 5 gallon secondary after racking.  
Bring 4 gallons water to boil and add chopped and peeled ginger for 10 
minutes.  Turn off light and add honey to dissolve in water.  Boiling types 
can bring it back for a 5 minute boil to skim off impurities before cooling, 
otherwise simply cool the must down to pitching temperature ASAP.  I have a 
good copper chiller.  Strain the ginger out of the must on the way to the 
fermentor.  This is important because the natural preservative power of the 
fresh ginger will inhibit the yeast from fermenting.  I didn't strain one 
brew and waited several frustrating days while it wouldn't ferment.  I 
finally strained it into a new fermentor and it took off overnight. 
The yeast selection will make all the difference with this brew.  Use an ale 
yeast if you want it to be sweet and a wine or Champagne yeast if you want it 
dry.  British ale strains tend to end in the FG 20 to 30 range (Very sweet), 
Wyeast American 1056 seems to drop to 10 or 15 FG for a medium sweet, and 
wine yeasts go to O or below.  You can prime this mead with 1/2 cup dextrose 
to carbonate in the bottle or you can keg and force carbonate.  This makes a 
great summer drink out of a keg.  The sweet version is ready to drink in as 
short as 3 months while the dry takes 6 months to a year to properly mature.  
The key is brewing from a relatively low starting gravity of 90.  Be sure the 
mead is finished fermenting before bottling.  I use strong yeast starters, 
forced medical grade OX prefermentation, and get vigorous fermentations that 
usually finish in a few weeks.  I can then age in a secondary till I'm ready 
to bottle or keg.

This is a good mead to experiment with honey varieties.  Clover is the 
lightest, Orange and Tupelo are a bit fuller, Wildflower can be interesting 
but a bit stronger in taste.  The lightest honey used will allow quicker 

An excellent ginger ale can be made by using a cream ale recipe and adding a 
few ounces of ginger near the end of the boil.  Of course, ginger is used in 
many historic recipes as part of the gruit formulation.  It was also 
traditionally added to taste in finished beer.

I also use my keg systems to make ginger soda.

Alaskan Brewing has a few desert recipes using ginger and beer.

Two books on ginger that I own are:

The Ginger Book by Stephen Fulder
Ginger East to West by Bruce Cost

Buhner's Sacred and Herbal Beers also has info on Ginger.

A great ginger tea can easily be made from this recipe.  It's good hot or 
2 inch piece fresh ginger root peeled & chopped
4 cups water
1 small stick cinnamon
4 cloves

Bring to a boil for 15 minutes and strain to serve.  I like it straight, but 
you can sweeten it with honey.  

Ginger is said to alleviate inflammation of the throat from the common cold, 
congestion, and sinus problems.  It also aids in the cleansing of the 
intestines and upset stomach.  It's a general tonic for the system and a 
natural stimulate.

Hope this gets you started,

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