Mild ginger beer (gemmerbier)

There is nothing as refreshing as cold ginger beer on a scorcher of a day! Ginger beer is a traditional drink as well. It was quite popular – and made frequently – in the days before fizzy drinks became readily available, especially on New Year.

We like ginger beer, but some ginger beer simply have too much kick to our taste. This recipe is for a mild ginger beer that is suitable for youngsters.

Because ginger beer becomes stronger (but less sweet) the longer it is allowed to ferment, the trick to making mild ginger beer is to use yeast sparingly, to taste it often (start tasting about 12 hours after fermentation started), and to filter it through at least eight layers of fine muslin (cheese cloth).


  • 5 litres water
  • 4 cups (1 litre) sugar (increase to 5 cups if you like it sweet)
  • ½ cup raisins, or ¼ cup if you add pineapple peel
    Note that raisins that still have their seeds will speed up the fermentation
  • 70 to 90 gram fresh ginger root, chopped or finely sliced
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons (7 to 10 ml) active dry yeast – NOT breadmaker (Surebake) yeast!
  • ½ teaspoon (2 ml) tartaric acid (wynsteensuur)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (7 ml) cream of tartar (kremetart)
  • Optional: pineapple peel, washed and cut into squares


  1. Boil the water in a large (6 litre) saucepan and add the sugar.
  2. When the sugar has dissolved, add ginger, clove and the raisins and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Allow the large pot to cool down for an hour or two.
  4. Pour half a cup of the cooling sugar-and-ginger water into a bowl. Let it cool down until it is tepid, that is, when you can hold your finger in it for 10 seconds without burning. This is the correct temperature for the yeast, warmer water will kill it.
  5. When tepid, dissolve the active dry yeast in this water and leave to ferment for at least 10 minutes.
  6. When the large pot has cooled down sufficiently so that it is tepid too, add the tartaric acid and cream of tartar and stir well.
  7. Add fermented yeast to large pot.
  8. Leave the ginger beer to ferment until its tastes right: it should still be a little sweet, with a mild ginger taste. If the ginger starts burning the back of your throat, it is definitely time to stop the fermentation, because it will become bitter if you leave it much longer.
  9. The time it will take depends on the weather. On a hot summer night it takes only 12 hours, but it may take 24 hours or more in colder weather.
  10. To stop the fermentation, pour the ginger beer into a wide jug, through a sieve that has been lined with eight to twelve layers of fine muslin (cheese cloth).
  11. Pour the ginger beer into clean bottles, using a funnel.
  12. We use old wine bottles with screw tops, but do not fill the necks of the bottles, allowing some pressure to build up without causing the bottles to explode. You can also use empty plastic fizzy drink bottles.

Keep refrigerated.