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Ginger beer is carbonated, sweetened beverage produced in two versions: alcoholic brewed ginger beer (which includes home-brewed) or a carbonated soft drink flavored primarily with ginger and sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners.
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, Ireland, 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.
The similarities and differences between ginger ale and ginger beer are discussed in the history section of the ginger ale article.
Ginger beer plant
The 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. Crabbie's is a popular brand in the UK. 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. Another popular ginger beer is Hollows & Fentimans. Hollows & Fentimans claims its ginger beer to be gluten-free. The UK edition of Crabbie's ginger beer is gluten-free, but not the US version.
Ginger beer soft drink
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).
- Root beer
- Caribbean cuisine
- Ginger wine
- Canton (liqueur)
- List of soft drink flavors
- Donoghue v. Stevenson, legal case involving ginger beer
- 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" (PDF). 22 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-06.
- 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
- Bassett, Win (November 15, 2012). "Crabbie’s, The Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer, Debuts in United States". All About Beer Magazine. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
- Knowlton, Andrew (January 22, 2013). "A Bottle in Front of Me Crabbie's". BON APPÉTIT. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
- "Stronger than the strongest thirst". Coca Cola South Africa. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
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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.