A few days ago, I posted some thoughts (barely that) on Ginger Beer vs Ginger Ale.
I had planned on it being a very thoughtful and thorough exploration of my introduction to Ginger Beer, but I just hated the way I started off on each attempt to write it and I finally ended up with a graffiti-like blog post instead of deep, rewarding essay on the subject.
Oh, who am I kidding? It’s soda pop. Mostly.
I’m going to admit that for at least 18 years of my life being completely ignorant of ginger beer, and being nearly completely ignorant of it for the next 26 years. (In fact, the only mention of “Ginger Beer” I’d ever heard was on Doctor Who – Android Invasion, if you must know – and I assumed (incorrectly) that ginger beer was just one of those quaint English renames of something that’s already got a perfectly good name in American English. Specifically, I thought it was ginger ale.
I don’t really like ginger ale (there’s a story there, too) and so I haven’t really given this whole thing much thought over the years; however, I can’t remember why, but two weeks ago, something made me curious about ginger beer. Curious enough to look it up in wikipedia, but not curious enough to look up ginger ale. My conclusion was that, if ginger beer is stronger than ginger ale and don’t like ginger ale, I’m certainly not going to like ginger beer.
Three days ago we stopped in Cost Plus to kill some time, and with that odd synchronicity that the law of large number throws at us and make people falsely believe in psychic powers, I found myself standing in front of a display of ginger beer bottles. I have never seen it for sale in the US before.
And so I decided to give it a try. There were several brands, none which came from England, but there was one with a kangaroo on the front (and, indeed it came from Australia) so I chose that.
(Everyone knows that Australian wines are so much superior to other countries’ because of the enormous size and hopping power of the kangaroo’s feet and legs when harnessed for the pressing of the grapes. It seemed logical that the advantage could be carried over into the production of ginger beer.)
Bundaberg Ginger Beer is awesome. Sweet, gingery and tasty.
The funny part was, as I said, on the whole, I don’t like ginger ale, but that’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed ginger ale. Sometimes I’d had a ginger ale and it was taste pretty darned good, but most of the time, it’s quite unpleasant to my palette. This ginger beer tasted of all the best in ginger ale, but stronger. Yum. (“Yum? Not Yum-O?” Yes, ‘yum.’ I refuse to say, “yum-o” even when it’s salaciously written across Rachel Ray’s breasts.)
This observation fired up my very natural and rather expansive sense of curiosity. (Just to be clear: Curiosity about the taste of ginger beer/ginger ale, not about the taste or any other attribute of Rachel Ray’s breasts. If it had, that would deserve a blog post all its own and besides, I try to keep this blog PG-13 at worst – unless it’s about the Seal People.)
So I started studying ginger ale a bit and that’s when I learned about “golden” and “dry” ginger ale. Dry ginger ale is most popular in America and tastes like slightly sweetened carbonated water – in other words, I finally understand why I don’t like ginger ale. It became popular as a mixer – in other words, its not meant to be drunk, just mixed with alcohol to try to kill he awful alcohol taste. The more awful the alcohol, the better dry ginger ale is. (See: Prohibition.)
Golden ginger ale, on the other hand is the more original form, sweeter, more flavorful and much harder to find in the US. Obviously these have been the rare instances when I’ve enjoyed ginger ale. Mystery solved.
So back to the ginger beer, which has more in common with golden ginger ale than dry ginger ale.
Perhaps. Or perhaps not. Another trip to Cost Plus and I loaded up with several bottles of each brand of ginger beer available.
Reed’s Jamaican Style Ginger Beer tastes like a bad white wine cooler, without the “benefit” of alcohol. Bitter.
Ginger Beer from The Ginger People. The bottle says are the winner of the “Most Outstanding Beverage” award from Nation Association for the Specialty Food Trade. It was sweet, gingery tasty and very reminiscent of the Bundaberg ginger beer, but with a curiously odd aftertaste that reminds me of the smell of an auto parts store. That’s a bit off-putting. I’ve never been too keen on drinking things that remind me of industrial manufacturing and chemicals.
(Let me be clear, I’m not opposed to foods that are industrially manufactured or full of chemicals, I just don’t want to be reminded of it with every taste.)
Finally there was Fentiman’s Ginger Beer, from England. This one was different because it was alcoholic, although just barely. I had to tip this one down the drain as I couldn’t finish it, nor could I describe the flavor.
In conclusion…3 out of 4 I didn’t really like. Perhaps I don’t really like ginger beer after all.