Although being a vegan is easy, not to mention the only way to live, it gets a bit trickier when alcohol is involved. I'm not talking about drunken cravings for cheese or anything like that. The simple act of choosing a beer is hard on a vegan! Some use isinglass, from the swim bladders of fish, in the fining process, others contain honey, or egg albumins. Sure, there are plenty of internet resources, but sometimes the easiest way to ensure the veganity of something is to make it yourself. And, with the right equipment (which requires a minor investment to start with), making your own beer is easy, cheap, and fun.
Instead of doing the brewing ourselves, which is complicated and takes ages, Andy and I buy these canisters of pre-mixed beer bases. You can get all kinds of brews, and can experiment with mixing for more complex flavours. This ginger beer came with the syrupy beer, a yeast packet, and a 'yeast feeder'. To make non-alcoholic ginger beer, add 1 cup of sugar.
To make the adult version, add a whole kilo of sugar. We buy this convenient mix of dextrose, corn syrup, and malt from our local home brew shop.
First, mix the sugar, beer syrup, and a few litres of boiling water in the fermenting drum. Mix realllly well, so lots of air gets in.
Then, pour in cool distilled water, about 15-20 litres. Pouring it from high up means more aeration and better beer.
Sprinkle the yeast packet onto the top of the mix, but don't stir it up.
Then, put the lid on, insert the airlock (which bubbles to show how much fermenting is happening), and put the fermenter where the temperature will stay fairly constant. Let it sit for about a week. If it's cold, it will take longer.
After a week, you've got alcohol, but it lacks fizz. Take the lid off and have a look inside. Have a taste at this stage. Though it's not fizzy, you will get an idea of the flavour the beer will have.
To make bubbles, you need more sugar. These sugar droplets are easy and don't make a mess--one for every regular sized bottle, or two for long-necks.
Sterilise all the bottles, and anything you use in the brewing process, because bacteria or mould makes the beer taste terrible.
With the sugar drops in, fill the bottles. It helps to have a bucket or pan underneath to catch any drips.
Use a fancy bottle capper to put the lids on the bottles...
And then put the bottles in the same place you put the fermenter. And wait. And wait. At least 3 weeks, though 6 or 8 weeks is better. When you can't stand it any longer, open the bottle and pour yourself a glass of homemade beer!
This ginger beer is better than any commercial brands we've tried, and not just because it's alcoholic! It's got more zing to it. And, there is no question about the veganity of it. Sure, the beer is a bit cloudy because there is no fining process, but it tastes good and it's satisfying to know that you made it yourself!