Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Experiment with Healthy Beer

Before I dive into the subject of this post, let me state that I do NOT condone excess consumption of alcohol. Although I don't think drinking high amounts of OTC beer to be a good thing, I also don't think an occasional beer or glass of wine (or Margarita or vodka tonic) will destroy your health. There is actually some research that suggests drinking red wine may be healthier than drinking tap water, so "moderation in all things" is a great mantra when it comes to alcohol.

After making non-alcoholic ginger ale for quite a while, I recently experimented with brewing my own alcoholic Ginger Beer. My incentives for brewing my own beer included:

1) To create a truly gluten-free beer. Since this beer contains nothing but ginger, this was easily accomplished.

2) To brew a beer that retains its health benefits because it is not pasteurized. (The "stuff" you buy mainstream is pasteurized, which effectively destroys the beneficial microorganisms that could potentially make beer healthy.)

3) For the mere heck of it and so I could say I'd done it.

I made Ginger Beer using a very simple process that included creating a starter culture using water, ginger and agave nectar. I then created a ginger syrup which I combined with the ginger starter culture. I allowed this to ferment for a few days and then added a tiny bit of yeast to start the production of alcohol. I also added lemon juice for flavor and to inhibit the growth of non-beneficial bacteria.The good news is that the fermentation process consumed the yeasts, meaning that this brew would not feed Candida.

Here are the conclusions I drew from my brew:

1) Ginger Beer maintains a healthy amount of beneficial probiotics: In spite of the yeast used to stimulate the production of alcohol, Ginger Beer is still a fermented product high in probiotics. I tested this by adding the final product to a small amount of yeast. The addition of the beer killed the yeast. (Yahoo!) I also confirmed this by testing the beer using an EDS (Electrodermal Stimulation) unit. The Ginger Beer consistently balanced people's allergy points and their Candida points. I found this very encouraging!

2) Ginger beer is cheap to make. It cost less than $3 to brew four liters of Ginger Beer. (Take that, Guinness!) Total time was approximately half an hour once I perfected the process.

3) Ginger Beer has a very mild taste. Ginger Beer smells strongly of beer but doesn't have the strong "bite" or bitterness that many beers have. Although sugar is used in the brewing process, the sugars are consumed in the fermentation process and no sweet taste remains. (I actually found that adding a bit of stevia improved its taste, but I'm not a beer drinker and don't generally like the taste of beer.) Ginger Beer has a strong ginger afternote, which I really liked. My biggest encouragement was that my husband, who's a bit of a beer snob, didn't describe Ginger Beer as tasting like "weasel piss" and actually said he likes it. (Sorry for the bluntness. That's his term for bad beers.) I also found that the probiotics and ginger in the beer could actually be used to settle an upset stomach. Imagine that!

4) Ginger Beer gets you wasted. I confess I'm a lightweight because I rarely drink. However, the alcohol content of my Ginger Beer was high enough that a single glass (6 oz) created quite a buzz. Batches left to brew longer than a week smelled more like distilled liquors than beer and had a much stronger effect. Again, moderation in all things is advised, but Ginger Beer did the trick when used as a muscle relaxant or as a calmant following a rough day.

There you have it! I'm not sure I'll continue brewing Ginger Beer, although I have enough starter culture to last a lifetime, but brewing it was quite an education!

Have you brewed your own beer? Please share what you brewed and whether you thought it made you healthier or not. Have a great week!

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