ginger beer… not exactly

When I was a kid, my squirt younger brother and I were lucky enough to be off-loaded onto our cousins for a few weeks every summer break.  They lived right on the Okura River bank, north of Auckland, with loads of room to roam around, fun neighbors, a crazy goat, swimming pool and somebody’s horse that we got to ride randomly.  I also had a few hair raising driving lessons in me aunties mint green mini (I remember the stick shift seeming like it was about 3 ft long!) With only one year between each of us 4 kids we generally got on and managed to amuse ourselves without too much trauma inflicted upon one another.

Sometimes we slept out in the garage, or what we referred to as the “bunk house,” and during these nights out we would have “midnight feasts” which in reality was probably more around 10pm…. we stockpiled food from the pantry and there was always at least one bottle of homemade ginger beer to slurp down our contraband items with.  I can’t really remember what the food was that we went to the trouble of stealing, but I sure do remember the ginger beer.  Mainly for two reasons, 1.  its friggin DELICIOUS and 2.  It was always exploding all over the place….. unfortunate side effect from the gasses building up, so as long as it doesn’t take your eye out, it’s still totally worth it.

The general rule of thumb is that you place a raisin in the bottle then cap it, and when the raisin floats to the top, the ginger beer is done BUT if you don’t get to it in time… well lets just say don’t put your face directly over the bottles…. or we could have a problem.

Ginger Beer

To start the plant

2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp active yeast

2 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp lemon juice

2 c water


Mix all the ingredients together in a jar. Cover (I used cheesecloth and a rubber band) and feed the plant 2 tsp sugar and 1 tsp ginger for 7 days. Stirring after each addition.



In a big pot mix together

6 quarts water
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice

Strain the liquid off the plant and add it to the remaining water, sugar and lemon juice. Bottle (with caps), add a few raisins to each bottle and allow to stand (in a cool dry spot) for 1 to 2 weeks before opening.



One bottle bit the dust and exploded within a day, but I’m putting that down to faulty bottle.  The rest were supposedly ready July 17th and I could barely contain myself thinking of all the fizz, ginger, and deliciousness I was going to gorge myself on.

Weeelllllll lets just say its back to the drawing board on this one…. 2 of the larger bottles when I opened them jettisoned a tower of fizz, which looked pretty spectacular but left us with a dribble in each bottle.  One also lost some glass off the top which we haven’t found yet, so there’s no running around on the lawn until that gets picked up.  The remaining bottles had fermented into what can only be labeled as MOONSHINE, which left Mr Weiss and I gagging.


My theory is that the recipe I wheedled out of my Aunty had 4 cups of sugar, but being the puritan and coupled with the fact that I can’t actually follow a recipe I halved this amount to 2 cups, thus not giving the mixture enough sugar for the yeast and therefore it fermented too quickly?? anyone, anyone? feel free to jump right in here and either support or shut down this cockamamie idea.

Okay you are free to go now.

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: Okay here’s the skinny my sister looked up a recipe down in good ole N.Z by the Martha equivalent there, Alison Gofton and it’s pretty much similiar with the exception of 4 CUPS sugar, what I suspected and she only leaves the bottles to ferment for 5 days, less if its hot… so come on people don’t be afraid of loosing an eye, get bottlin!



  1. Lee
    Posted July 20, 2009 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Oh great! I would love to know how to make it as I tried about a year ago and was a dismal failure…you should ask your MOTHER as she used to make it continually when we were kids, and it was fantastic (whether she can remember how is another story)…

  2. Jill
    Posted July 20, 2009 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    I Love your bottles! Did the taste of the first 2 exploding bottles, taste alright? or was the whole batch a bit “moonshiney”?
    All the kiwi recipes I have looked up all use 4 cups of sugar, or one had 450gms.
    Hopfully you are going to try again???

  3. thecatskillkiwi
    Posted July 21, 2009 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I am definitely going to try again, just need to collect some more bottles, the bottles i used had swing tops, not sure if this is a problem or it was really there was not enough sugar.
    But it did taste pretty great and is worth giving it a second go.

  4. Gina
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    We did this at school and we weren’t allowed glass bottles because they weren’t designed specifically for ginger beer or something. We just used plastic bottles. Maybe that’s why your bottles exploded. 🙂

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