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Taste Test: Ginger Beer

Story: Emma Mannheimer

Photo: Lauren Segal

When ginger beer was first popularized in the United Kingdom in the 18th century, the soda had more in common with today’s kombucha than it did with mildly flavored ginger ale. A fermented concoction of yeast-rich ginger, sugar, and water, often with the addition of lemon, the brew could reach up to 11 percent ABV. Nowadays, ginger beer differs from ginger ale primarily in its flavor, bearing more of ginger’s signature kick. Queue up your favorite Moscow Mule recipe—here are seven spiced-up options for mixing or sipping solo.

East Imperial Mombasa Ginger Beer East Imperial’s mixers are made in New Zealand, and their Mombasa Ginger is the result of a three-day brewing process that combines ginger from East Africa and East Asia and aims to emulate home- brews crafted in the Caribbean. With lower sugar levels than other brands, this is an extra- dry ginger beer, with full carbonation and a warming spice. $39 for 25-pack, eastimperial.com

Fentimans Ginger Beer Thomas Fentiman began his business going door-to-door with horse and cart to deliver his brewed ginger beer in 1905. More than a century later, his business remains in the Fentiman family; still bears the stamp of Fentiman’s beloved dog, Fearless; and continues to be brewed with a multistage botanical technique. Fermented Chinese gingerroot gives this soda an earthy ginger appeal, while additions of juniper and yarrow make it one of a kind. $8 for a 4-pack, amazon.com

Fever-Tree Premium Ginger Beer Fever-Tree may have taken off with tonic, but the U.K.-based brand hasn’t taken any shortcuts with their award- winning ginger beer. Brewed from a three- ginger blend featuring green ginger from the Ivory Coast, earthy ginger from Cochin, India, and aromatic ginger from Nigeria, Fever-Tree balances a building ginger heat with a hint of sugar and lively carbonation. $5 for 500mL bottle, reservebar.com

Q Light Ginger Beer Brooklyn-based Q introduced Light Ginger Beer to its collection last spring. It’s a sprightly option for a reduced-calorie offering (40 calories per 7.5 oz. can), flavored with chili pepper extract, coriander, cardamom, and lime. Ginger’s spice is tempered by the sweetness of agave nectar. $29.95 for a 24-pack, qmixers.com

Rachel’s Ginger Beer Original Seattle-based Rachel Marshall relies on a four- ingredient recipe—raw ginger, organic unwashed sugar, lemons, and water— for her signature ginger beer that’s captured hearts across the Pacific Northwest. The unfiltered ginger beer is a lip- smacking, citrus- forward option with a fresh-as- can-be ginger flavor. $78 for a 4-pack of 32 oz. growlers, rachelsgingerbeer.com

Maine Root Spicy Ginger Brew With a fiery depth of flavor, Maine Root Spicy Ginger Brew is not for the faint of heart. The Maine-based soda maker skips the citrusy approach employed by many producers and relies on organic cane sugar and earthy ginger to create genuine heat and a robust flavor. Though this bottle packs a sweet boost of sugar, the ginger bite keeps it burning bright. $19.95 for a 12-pack, maineroot.com

Spruce Soda Co. Ginger Beer Aiming for an approach- able ginger beer, the founders of Minneapolis- based Spruce landed on a recipe of freshly juiced ginger, cane sugar, lemon juice, and a touch of salt. The brand goes old school with their unfiltered ginger beer, which is fermented for three days with ale yeast prior to packaging. A fresh- tasting take, Spruce delivers a mild peppery spice, zesty lemon, and a pop of sugar. For distribution, visit sprucesoda.com

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