Ginger Beer – a healthy home-made ginger beer can be made in two ways: with a Ginger bug, or a Ginger beer plant.
- A ginger bug is made by combining ginger, sugar and water, relying on the natural yeasts and bacteria present on the ginger to ferment the sugars enough make the potion bubble.
- A ginger beer plant on the other hand, is a scoby culture one must acquire from a source – Ginger beer plant looks similar to tibicos with a crystal-like cellulose matrix, and consists of about 20 species of yeasts and bacteria, the two key components being Lactobacillus hilgardii and Saccharomyces florentinus. Ginger beer plant was once common in English homes between the 18th and 20th centuries but fell into obscurity by World War 2 due to sugar-rationing. Ironically, its resurgence back into society is all thanks to a German culture bank, where the genuine culture is known as ‘DSMZ Strain 2472′.
The upkeep of these cultures is quite similar – both require regular feedings of sugar and ginger root. Like the tibicos, the ginger beer is a lactic acid ferment and thus converts the raw materials into a drinkable brew within days.
Ultimately, the ginger bug is far more popular because its ingredients are readily available, but connoisseurs will tell you the flavour of a brew from a ginger beer plant is superior, and of course a brew made from a ginger beer plant will have extra probiotic strains for digestive health. Health benefits of both brews reflect the amazing properties of the ginger root itself – digestive aid, anti-inflammatory, immune system strengthening, pain and nausea relief. The old wives tale of ‘soda for an upset stomach’ will be referring to this particular drink as opposed to the nutritionally devoid carbonated brines we now associate with the word ‘soda’.
So while the Ginger Beer Plant culture is not redily available in New Zealand to buy, you can buy ginger beer made with the genuine ginger beer plant grains here.