The new year has begun and we’re all casting around for healthy lifestyle changes. A simple and tasty improvement to the beer portion of your diet can be made by adding an occasional ginger beer. Although we normally think of ginger beer as a soft drink, it was originally an alcoholic beverage consumed as both a refreshment and a tonic.
Ginger is one of our oldest known and healthiest spices. It causes the heart to beat more strongly and slowly, which can alleviate headaches and reduce migraines. In this season of colds and flu, ginger beer provides antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic properties. It soothes the stomach, aids digestion, and helps reduce nausea. Also, considering what many of us shoveled into our gullets over the holidays, it’s a relief to know that ginger also helps remove cholesterol from the bloodstream and liver.
And while in the 19th century, before lager beer dominated the landscape, ginger beer outsold hopped beer in this country, today its fans are primarily in the UK and Asia. A few imports are making inroads however.
Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer – This traditional ginger beer from Scotland (4% ABV) has been brewed since 1801 and is currently the top selling bottled beer in the UK. It’s been distributed in this country since last April and is carried locally by City Beer, Real Foods on Polk, and BevMo. Crabbie’s mixes ginger and other spices to make this zingy and slightly sweet brew.
Hitachino Nest Real Ginger – This Japanese import from the Kiuchi Brewery (7% ABV) is a solid gateway into the land of ginger beer. The mild sweetness from the malt is balanced with spice from the ginger and the familiar aroma of Perle and Golding hops. Available from Healthy Spirits.
Robinsons Old Tom Ginger – This English strong ale (6% ABV) from Frederic Robinson Ltd. in England makes a great winter warmer. The ginger in this dark mahogany ale has a pleasant pepper heat which is nicely finished by caramel and toffee malt notes. Available from Healthy Spirits.
Fentimans Traditional Ginger Beer – This near beer (.5% ABV) from Fentimans Ltd. in England combines crisp blast of ginger with milder herbal flavors from spices such as paprika, lemon, juniper berries, and yarrow. Available from The Fizzary and BevMo.