Does Ginger Beer Expire?

by Charlie

Modern ginger beer has not reached the popularity of its cousin ginger ale, but more and more Americans are taking an interest in the soft drink with alcoholic origins in England. It’s rather quirky taste and peculiar fermenting process has attracted a multitude of connoisseurs who converse often on best practices, like how long ginger beer keeps.

Ginger beer is spicier in taste than ginger ale, and is known well as a base for popular alcoholic drinks like the Dark n’ Stormy, Moscow Mule or a sangria. Because home production involves a fermentation process and adjustments for tastes, groups of Americans tinker with home-made ginger beer as a hobby, and these enthusiasts keep in touch.

Among their conversations you’re bound to hear or see the questions, Does ginger beer expire? The answer is that ginger beer does not expire, but its quality and taste over time will depend on how it is stored, sealed and refrigerated, among other factors.

Following is some insight into ginger beer, including its origins, its alcoholic history and current content, its production process and, of course, information on storage and longevity.

How Long Can Unopened Ginger Beer Last?

For commercially produced ginger beer in cans or bottles, if properly stored unopened these soft drinks for the most part retain quality for up to 9 months, and usually stay safe to drink even longer.

It is important to note that home-making ginger beer involves fermentation, so a minor amount of alcohol is produced through the breaking down of yeast. The amount of alcohol rarely exceeds 0.5% — the limit for U.S. “non-alcoholic” beverages — though if ginger beer batches are allowed to continue to ferment, that amount could rise.

It is wise to consume home-made ginger beer within 8 weeks, from unopened containers. Once they are opened, try to drink it within about a week. Unopened commercial ginger beer can stay longer if stored well.

What are the Best Ways to Store Ginger Beer?

Yes, certain practices help preserve the taste quality in ginger beer. First, keep it cool and away from heat. Secondly, if it came refrigerated, keep it refrigerated. Then once opened, make sure to re-cap tightly, and know that ginger beer stays better in very cold refrigerators.

For home-made ginger beer, once the product is ready, tighten caps properly and store a week to 10 days in cool spaces away from light. Once bottles are firm to the squeeze, the ginger beer is ready to drink. Coldness slows the fermentation process, so if you keep the bottles outside the refrigerator for extended periods, the alcohol content may rise.

Is it Required to Refrigerate Ginger Beer?

No, you don’t absolutely have to refrigerate ginger beer. That is, if it has not yet been refrigerated, as moving it from cold to warm and back to cold can negatively impact taste. As with other sodas, however, ginger beer is best served chilled. You can save non-commercial ginger beer in bottles for a spell, but keep it well-capped and cold, and try to empty it within days.

Does Ginger Beer Get You Drunk?

The answer is no, ginger beer will not get you drunk, unless you consume a whole lot of it at once. Even the so-called non-alcoholic beers contain small amounts of alcohol, which can add up in a person’s body if consumed fast enough.

On an empty stomach or if a person is really tired, a person might get tipsy or barely intoxicated after drinking a lot of ginger beer fast. However, considering its rather unusual spicy taste, not many people prefer to “slam” ginger beers. If they wanted to get drunk, they would use it as a base mixer.

Where Did Ginger Beer Come From?

Ginger beer originated in England in the mid-19th century, as an alcoholic beverage at times reaching alcohol-content levels as high as 11%. This traditional ginger beer was created through natural fermentation that occurs by mixing ginger spice, yeast and sugar.

This contrasts with modern, commercially produced ginger beer which is carbonated as opposed to fermenting. Home-brewers will still ferment ginger beer, mixing ginger, sugar and water, with a great variety of production tactics to adjust taste, spiciness, and even alcohol content if so desired.

In Britain, ginger beer producers can choose to label products as “alcoholic ginger beer” to separate it from the commercially produced ginger beers that are not brewed but carbonated by adding carbon dioxide.

Is there a Difference Between Ginger Beer and Ginger Ale?

Yes, there is a difference between ginger beer and ginger ale, but it’s not as distinct as, say, the difference between regular beer and root beer. The big change with ginger beer is it is more robust and spicy compared with ginger ale.

Ginger drinks are based on the ginger spice, which is added in cooking for flavor enhancements, so the taste of ginger beer can vary depending on the amount and quality of the ginger spice used.

It’s interesting to note that ginger brings with it some alleged health benefits, such as fighting germs and bacteria, soothing muscle or arthritis pain, or easing nausea. However this might be true of pure ginger, in generous amounts.

The watered-down amount of the spice in ginger beer probably is not enough to provide these health benefits, which have not altogether been proven by U.S. food regulators.

Final Thoughts

  • Ginger beer does not expire, but its quality can decline significantly depending on how long it is stored, whether it was opened from sealed containers, how well containers are re-capped and refrigerated.
  • Unopened ginger beer can retain optimal flavor for up to 9 months stored and unopened. Once opened, it is best to keep it well-refrigerated, and to consume it within days, most likely no more than 4 days.
  • Commercially produced ginger beer is carbonated, and flavored with ginger, so opened cans can go flat relatively quickly, and taste quality can deteriorate along with it. These products resemble regular soft drinks in this manner.
  • Home-made ginger beers can contain small amounts of alcohol, but it is rare for a person to become intoxicated by their consumption.
  • The difference between ginger beer and ginger ale is a spicier, more-robust taste in ginger beer.

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