I've always loved the taste of ginger. I think it comes from my mother who uses lots of it in her baking and and makes incredibly delicious ginger bread (see here for my mother's Ginger Nut recipe). I love the spicy warm taste of ginger when used in baking, or the bite that it brings when used fresh in curries. So the idea of ginger beer naturally intrigues me. It appears that the alcoholic ginger category in the UK is currently worth £21.8m and growing. So it seems that I've hit on a current trend, without even knowing it.
I've been seeking out different brands, and I've found that there are some big differences out there. Here are my thoughts on what's good, and maybe not so good.
|Stone's Ginger Joe|
Bottom of the pile was newcomer Ginger Joe (4% ABV), launched recently by Stone's. I loved the ginger tache on the bottle as well as the catchy name, but the drink itself was syrupy with no ginger bite or tang. I guess that it's ginger beer for the young or the alcopop generation. I've seen this drink in some specialist beer venues (Bierhaus Cork, I'm looking at you), and I am disappointed that it is taking shelf space from other, better ginger beers. (Available at Redmond's of Ranelagh)
|Crabbie's Ginger Beer|
Also sitting at the bottom of my taste test is Crabbie's Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer (4.0% ABV). Like Ginger Joe, this drink comes from a long-established producer of ginger wine. And like Ginger Joe, it suffered from too much sweetness and not enough ginger. It would probably be good over ice on a hot summer's day, but it just isn't enough for beer-loving taste buds. Not one I'm going to buy again. (Available at Redmond's of Ranelagh)
|Williams Ginger Beer|
Things improved dramatically when I tasted Williams Brothers Ginger Ale (3.8% ABV). This had a proper beer taste, but with buckets of ginger warmth as well as slight citrus. It has the lowest alcohol content of the all the beers that I've tasted, but it tastes the most beer-like. A definite favourite. (Available at Redmond's of Ranelagh).
Marks & Spencer Ginger Ale (6.0% ABV) features a lovely hen motif on the label, but the label mentioned both Fentiman's and Robinsons. Confused, I was, so I turned to Google, where I learned that this is a blend of Fredrick Robinson’s Dark Ale and Fentiman’s Traditional Ginger Beer and is bottled exclusively for M&S. The fact that this is ale-based is easily determined upon tasting, and the ginger flavour is weak and doesn't linger on the palate. This retails at €3.09.
Top of my pile was John Hollows' Superior Alcoholic Ginger Beer (4.0% ABV). This was launched in 2010 by soft drinks manufacturer Fentiman's and I loved the warming tingle that it left my tongue. Despite this, it's a refreshing, crisp drink, probably helped by the fact that it contains pear juice. I've found it in Dublin at the Bull & Castle, but if anyone knows any other stockists, please let me know.
|M&S Ginger Ale (Courtesy of the Beer Bunker blog)|
|John Hollow's Ginger Beer|
So there you go, that's my quick round up of ginger beer tasting. If you're sweet of tooth, you'll probably prefer my bottom two, but if you want more of a ginger hit, then I'd heartily recommend Williams Bros and John Hollow's.