Ginger Beer and Licorice

After my recent hypothermic escapade I took a trip to the shop and slapped down £10 for a bagful of ginger. I grated it, mixed it with water in a gallon demijohn and drizzled a good lot of honey into it. I then left it uncovered on the kitchen counter. After a day or so I started drinking it, in great need of it’s medicinal effects. After a week or so it was more like the ginger beer that you can buy, but of a different quality, not as sweet (as Crabbies anyway.)

Grating ginger by hand.

Grating ginger by hand.

Drizzling honey.

Drizzling honey.

Finished ginger beer in the demijohn. (Le demi-Jean)

Finished ginger beer in the demijohn. It just remains to strain it after a few days. Careful not to overfill, even this is pushing it. All the trapped CO2 makes a raft of the ginger and it can overflow.

Recently, I bought another wonderful book ‘Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers’, by Stephen Harrod Buhner. Coming to the section on ginger beer I read that ginger is widely used, by herbalists and native folk alike, for improving peripheral circulation (hands and feet), for the libido – wahey!, and for colds and flu. Which is wonderful. I was also struck by the fact that it’s a source of Aspergillus mold. That’s the same mold used in koji, for making the traditional Japanese ferments: miso, sake and amazake. Aspergillus is used to break starch down to simple sugars. Exciting for me because koji is expensive to buy and making it is beyond me whilst I’m living with my folks. So i’d like to experiment using ginger to kickstart a rice beer perhaps.
In the little section on licorice there’s another little gem, which is that “licorice contains a saponin glycoside, glycyrrhizin, that is 50 times sweeter than sugar and non-fermentable. It adds a wonderful sweetness to some beers”. I’d love to be corrected if i’m wrong but I think only carbohydrate sugars will ferment, which is why Stevia leaf can’t be used to ferment a brew. Glycosides are a sugar molecule bound to a non-sugar. Stevia contains steviol glycosides.
It would have to be licorice root, from the plant Glycyrrhiza glabra, not the gummy sweet, all-sorts type. I bought some recently: pure, dried, in a stick form, it’s strong stuff! Quite brittle. I’ve also bought the root itself in the past, good as a toothbrush once the ends are chewed. It also states that licorice is used to give a good foam, or head to a beer. Multi-purpose, I like it, makes a head and leaves a residual sweetness. Well worth an experiment or two.
The book is worth a read, for those interested in the history of pre-hops, herbal and medicinal beer and ale. He’s no great fan of hops, “why would you want to go to sleep every time you drink beer?”. Besides which, it is a source of estrogen, making it an anaphrodisiac, leading to the common condition of Brewer’s Droop. The thought of brewing herbal beers witha whole range of intoxicating effects is very attractive to me. Many herbs are stimulating compared with hops’ depressant action.
Who’s with me?! Let’s brew beers that make us want to dance and sing.


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