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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Homemade Ginger Beer inspired by Rachel's Ginger Beer in Seattle

Rachel's Ginger Beer, Seattle
Name that beverage: spicy, nasal-clearing, and able to cleanse your palate in a single sip. Yes, that would be Ginger Beer. On my recent trip to Seattle to attend IFBC, I was making a note of Pike Place Market locations that I wanted to visit. I asked my friend Alyssa from Everyday Maven, who I finally got to meet in real life (and is local to the area), told me a few of her favorite places. One of those places being Rachel's Ginger Beer.

Now, before visiting Pike Place Market, I didn't realize that it was not simply a market, but an actual historic district covering nine acres just east of the Seattle waterfront. From 1st Avenue to Western Avenue, and from Pike Street to Virginia Street, it offers not only a varied shopping and eating experience, but also views of the Olympic Mountains and the Puget Sound! I'm not going to lie—I found myself daydreaming of living in the area...taking lazy day walks with the family that would find us home hours later, bags and trolleys bursting with freshly caught seafood, handmade pasta in all sorts of intriguing flavors, locally picked produce, some artisan-crafted soaps and lotions, and a bright bouquet of flowers.

We would have stopped for bowls of sustaining chowder, browsed the jewelery beaded painstakingly by hand, and picked up a few Milagros for our Day of the Dead altar. Surely we'd have carried around plastic cups, each filled with a different flavor of that ginger beer that Alyssa told me about. Because I'd be happy drinking a cup of Rachel's Ginger Beer every day.

Rachel's Ginger Beer, Seattle
But, back to reality. When afternoon conference sessions broke on Saturday, we walked down to Pike Place to see what we could find before heading back over to see the Space Needle in the dark. As we wandered through one of the populated alleys, we found ourselves standing right in front of Rachel's Ginger Beer. It was a sign—we were being beckoned from within the hip little corner shop.
White Peach Ginger Beer from Rachel's Ginger Beer in Seattle

A couple of small steps down, past a bank of windows at eye level with the sidewalk, to the sparse counter at the back of the room we floated. Bea ordered a regular Ginger Beer and I ordered a White Peach Ginger Beer. As we stepped back up to the sidewalk, the sun was beginning to set on an absolutely gorgeous autumn day.

So of course, now that I'm home again, I'm craving a good, spicy ginger beer like Rachel's. I decided to try my hand at making my own, since it's something I hadn't tried making before. I wound up adapting mainly from two different places, epicurious and Yemoos. I decreased the sugar and upped the fresh ginger juice from the epicurious recipe, but still found that I would have liked the ginger to be a little bit stronger, so next time I will add more - maybe even double what I used this time.

I also thought about adding some peach to the mixture, in honor of the white peach flavor that I tried while I was there, but since I bought a bag of dried Washington apples from Pike Place, I decided to go with apple as the flavoring instead.

I'll admit, it's not as good as the glass I had from Rachel's Ginger Beer, but it's not bad, either. With a bit of tweaking and playing around, I'm sure that I'll find a formula that I like (at least almost) as much.

Homemade Ginger Beer
Homemade Ginger Beer with the added flavor of Washington Apples, inspired by Rachel's Ginger Beer and Seattle, Washington.
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Homemade Ginger Beer
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 24-48 hours (mostly unattended)
Keywords: beverage vegan ginger

Ingredients (~2 quarts)
  • 4 ounces fresh ginger
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • tiny pinch of fine grain salt
  • About 2 quarts spring or mineral water, at cool room temperature
Using a coarse microplane grater set over a large piece of wax paper, grate the ginger. Once it is all grated, lift the was paper up by the edges and slide the ginger and any juices that have started to come out into a wire mesh strainer set over a bowl or measuring cup. Use a small wooden spoon to press and squeeze all of the juice that you can from the ginger. You should have at least 1/4 cup of ginger juice.
pressing the ginger to make ginger juice
Set a small funnel in neck of a 2-liter plastic bottle and pour in the ginger juice. Add sugar, lemon juice, yeast, and salt.

Fill bottle with water, leaving at least an inch of space at top. Remove funnel and screw cap on tightly. Gently shake bottle to dissolve sugar. Feel the bottle, and notice that it has a little bit of "give" (just for reference later). Let stand at room temperature for 24-48 hours. At this point, when you try to squeeze the bottle again, it will no longer give, but instead feel hard and firm.

Slowly unscrew the cap (to release gas), and if you like, use a funnel to transfer to other bottles or jars, leaving at least 1-inch of space at the top of each bottle. If you added any dry fruit to the original mixture, set a small strainer over the funnel.

Chill ginger beer until cold. Will keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 week. You may want to burp your bottles daily to prevent explosions (from carbonation build-up) if they are very full.

To make Washington Apple Ginger Beer:
Add a handful of dried, unsweetened, unsulphured apple slices (cut into smallish pieces) when you add everything to ginger juice. (Mine were dried Fuji Apples from Simply the Best in Pike Place Market.)

Add the lesser amount of sugar for a very lightly sweetened ginger beer, add more if you like it sweeter. You may have to try it once for yourself, and adjust to your liking. Same goes with the amount of fresh ginger juice you add. Add more for a stronger flavor.
Homemade Ginger Beer inspired by Rachel's Ginger Beer in Seattle