Beer-adjacent offerings are becoming increasingly popular, and joining the ranks of hard seltzer and alcoholic kombucha is beer’s sweet, spicy, non-alcoholic counterpart: ginger beer.
From its origins to the rise of alcoholic ginger beer, and ginger beer cocktails, here’s the lowdown on this fizzy beverage with a spicy kick.
This old-time brew originated in England in the 1700s at the height of the colonial spice trade. Today ginger beer is one of the fastest-growing alcoholic drinks segments in Australia, its popularity part of a trend that is seeing a continuing shift away from high-strength lagers, and traditionally bitter beers.
As tastes and approaches to drinking change, and Australians are enjoying lower alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks more, ginger beer is claiming pride of place in the mix as it can be made as low- or no-alcohol versions, and is also often gluten-free. Diet ginger beer is also a fantastic option that tastes just as good as the original, but with less sugar.
Despite its name, ginger beer is not a true beer — the name was historically assigned due to the fact that it was fermented. While not having the bitterness of beer, the hot and peppery bite of ginger provides a similar impact. Modern ginger ale is usually just a carbonated, sweet soft drink.
As a cold drink, ginger beer offers deep and satisfying refreshment, and also makes an exciting base for more complex flavours in cocktails. The classic dark and stormy (mixed with dark rum) and Moscow mule (mixed with vodka and lime juice) are two of the most common ginger beer cocktails.
If you like your cocktails on the sweeter side, swapping ginger beer out for ginger ale is a great idea. Since ginger ale is not as peppery, it allows the primary flavours of the alcohols to come through with more tenacity. Rum and ginger ale is a fantastic combination, as is gin and ginger ale, as the ale complements the botanicals.
High-quality ginger beer mixers can take a cocktail to the next level. Some of the best ginger beer and ginger ale brands to try include the classic Bundaberg Ginger Beer and both Fever Tree Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer.
These days there’s an entire shelf of alcoholic ginger beers you can try. Here are just a few popular picks.
A bright, refreshing drop for those that love the bite of ginger. It’s 8% alcohol, coeliac friendly, and naturally flavoured.
Crisp and sweet with a polite zing. At only 3.5% alcohol, it goes down a treat as a solo act, but also plays well as a mixer.
At 5.3% alcohol, Ginja Ninja is brewed with local ingredients, is low-carb and low-sugar. It’s just the sweet and spicy drink you called for.
This ginger beer is refreshing, with a combination of the sweetness from residual sugars and spiciness from the ginger. At 4% alcohol, it’s perfect over ice and makes a great mixer for your favourite vodka or rum.
The next time you’re looking for a refreshing sip, but aren’t up for the more bitter taste of regular beer, “going ginger” might be just the ticket.