008Ginger. It used to be my own personal beer Kryptonite; The Devil’s Root,  an unforgiving ingredient that was poured into boiling kettles by clumsy brewers all too often. Easy to get hold of, familiar enough to be comfortable with, yet misunderstood by too many.

Ginger’s versatility in flavour is both its greatest asset and biggest downfall. If you equate it to food, think about how it can go from warming, roasted, spice in Parkin or Ginger Shortbread, to the citric bite that it adds to Thai food. I would very rarely get that wondrous gamut of flavour in beers, instead getting soap or just harsh, plain heat. Until recently.

Last summer, a bottle of Little Valley’s Ginger Pale Ale turned my head simply due to that lightness of touch that I was seeking being present. The ginger in it simply surfaced at the back of the throat following a sip, and this was not only pleasant but entirely intriguing. It beckoned you to take another sip.  I’ve been keeping an eye out for ginger in beers ever since, my curiosity piqued.

Nethergate’s Lemonhead was a beer I had low expectations of, to be frank. It sounded like an alcopop (with hints of lemon and ginger!) but it actually turned out well. Uber-pale, it did blend juicy, fresh lemon notes with subtle, drying heat courtesy of the ginger at the end of the sip. Packing a lot of body into a 4.1% abv beer, it’s a beer I would probably still steer away from on cask but a chilled bottle on a a warm day….perhaps. Nethergate do have form with me; as I type, I’m reminded of a delicious pint of Umbel Magna (spiced with Coriander) that I enjoyed a while ago.

022 (2)Marble’s Ginger is held in high regard but I am pleased to see 1888 Ginger Stout (6.5% abv) appearing in bottles. Now, in my mind (which is probably too much in ‘Kitchen’ mode here) Stouts and Porters should be where Ginger shines and this is no exception. There’s that familiar Marble nose wafting across as I pour; slightly estery, fruity and wild, backed this time by a touch of Coca-Cola that hints at the spiciness within. It’s just that; although the beer is slightly thinner than I’d like, there is a lovely blend of inherent spiciness going on – Liquorice being the main note, with the warming, almost soothing Ginger popping up on the tongue at the end. It’s like a liquid Ginger biscuit and it’s lovely.

IMG_3397Arran do seem to be everywhere at the moment. Currently steaming through a massive period of growth (well documented by Robsterowski here) but they are still a brewery I don’t see enough of down here. I’ve enjoyed many a pint of blonde, and although my recent experiences with their bottles have been hit and miss, I really enjoyed Fireside (4.7%abv). Looking like a glowing ember in the glass, this hearty amber ale embodies the balance that I’ve been looking for.

This bottle was super-fresh; bursting with aromas of creamy malt, bonfire toffee and even an odd-yet-entirely-lovely pear drop note. The overall impression is that of a robust scotch ale, all crisp malt and sweet toffee, until that hit of ginger gatecrashes, bringing a little heat to the party. It’s just a little heat – and that’s the key.

So, overall, my palate is taught a lesson. My eyes remain open, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll start opting for Ginger on the bar before too long.


About leighgoodstuff

Blog: I'm Leigh Linley; born and bred in Leeds, and writing about it since 2005. TGS exists solely to highlight the great beers that are out there; brewed with passion by Craft Brewers around the World. I also edit the 'Tavern Tales' section of Culture Vulture, which looks at Pubs and Pub Life rather than the beer in the glass.

Posted on 17/01/2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Ooh intriguing. Pete (Drinks) did a huge alcoholic ginger beer test a little over a year ago, with both alcopop styles and beers with ginger included. We tried really hard to get our hands on every ginger beer we could find though we didn’t manage every single one. 🙂

  2. Glad you are starting to feel the ginger love mate. The trouble is decent examples are so hard to find. Not tried the Lemon Head or the Arran but was lucky enough to be at the launch of Marble 1888 at the Marble Arch, I really like that beer as it’s subtle.

    All to often ginger beers are sweet and sickly, Crabbies for instance do absolutely nothing for me and I’ve tried a few varieties, most supermarket items follow suit. Robinsons Ginger Tom excluded but it’s not there often.

    Here’s a couple to look out for, first off OffBeat Weird Whisky Mac (or whisky barrel aged Unhinged Ginger). Both delicious and very drinkable.

    Also Wheal Maiden Brewery “Grandmas Weapons Grade Ginger Beer”, agin not quite as fiery as it sounds. Harder to get hold of as I only think it’s cask. It’s pure white and I reckon chilled on keg in summer it would be incredible.

    • Phil – thank for that comment, excellent info there. Yes, that pure white keg stuff does sound refreshiing, I will certainly keep an eye out for that. Cheers.

  3. I am a big fan of ginger as a flavouring in beer and also the arran Brewery. I notice Booths in Ilkley are heavily pushing their wares at the moment.

    Ginger isnt just a delicious ingredient in cooking/ber. A few years ago when I was on holiday in Zanzibar, I was lucky enough to do a spice tour with a local daktari (daktari is Swahili for doctor). He was saying that ginger was one of his most useful medicines. Apparently it has three primary uses, good for sore throats, good for upset stomachs and also natural viagara.

  4. Just as a post script, I was at the excellent Pendle Beer Festival last night (31/01). Without a doubt thebest beer I tried was Binghams Ginger Doodle Stout, the ginger superbly complimenting the stout giving it a lovely zing.

    Well done to East Lancs CAMRA for such a good beer festival

%d bloggers like this: