20081005

Ginger Ale

So I'm making ginger ale for our Halloween party coming up in a few weeks. No, not ginger-ale: Ginger. Ale.

Here's the recipe I'm using, if anyone's interested:
4 lemons
8 oz fresh ginger root
2 pounds light malt extract
4 pounds (8 cups) sugar
5 gallons water
2 tbsp yeast nutient
2 pounds lactose
dry ale yeast (I used Munton's, but any kinds will do)
Zest lemons and remove pith. Mash up lemons with the zest in a large pot. (I.e. what you want to do is keep the zest and the wedges, but throw out everything in between that can leave a bitter taste.) Peel ginger root and slice thinly. Add 1 gallon of water to the pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 30 minutes, then reduce heat until boiling stops. Remove pot from the heat and add malt extract and sugar. Stir in thoroughly and return to heat, but do not boil. Hold just below boiling for about 20 minutes.

Add 4 gallons of water to primary fermenter. Strain wort into the fermenter to get out the big chunks of lemon, ginger, etc. - this should give you a temperature of about 85°F assuming the water was at room temperature. Stir in yeast nutrient and lactose. When temperature evens out (i.e. when it's between 80° and 85°) add the yeast. Seal the fermenter with an air lock.

Let it ferment for about three days until the violent part of the bubbling has stopped, then transfer it into a secondary fermenter, discarding anything that has sunk to the bottom or floated to the top (inevitably, there will be some lemon pulp that escapes the primary straining).

Normally, at this point you ferment for another couple of days and then bottle. Let me be very clear. Let this ferment out for at least another week or even two. Ginger ale is a little more enthusiastic than most beer, and my first attempt at it resulted in hideous explosions.

After fermentation is definitively complete, rack into a bottling bucket and add about 5oz of corn sugar, then bottle and cap. Give it about 2-3 weeks of priming time and then drink (this doesn't have to age quite as long as a regular beer after priming.

Anyway, I'm still on the secondary fermentation stage. The primary gravity was 1.050, but I believe a lot of this has to do with the lactose, which doesn't ferment. I'm anticipating the final gravity to be around 1.020, which should give it a nice light 4-5% alcohol. I'll let you know how it turns out...