A friend, an exceptionally good cocktail maker, got me into home-brewing ginger beer. Several months ago, while I was in the UK, I watched him painstakingly grate his way through several ginger roots- at least until I felt sorry for him and finished it off- and mix it with lemon juice, sugar syrup, yeast and water, and leave it to do its thing. I put it on my mental to-do list, and eventually got round to it in April.
This is Toby's recipe for ginger beer:
50g grated or juiced ginger root
75ml lemon juice
125ml Simple syrup
300ml warm water
1 tsp yeast
Mix together and fine
strain into a fliptop bottle. Leave to ferment for 1-2 days and don't
put it next to the oven as I, being an idiot, once did. You may need to
add more sugar after this as the yeast eats a lot. Also, this recipe
shifts a lot so play with the proportions until you're happy.
The first time I made ginger beer, I followed these instructions to the letter. It was excellent, not too sweet and with a cold-clearing amount of ginger flavour.
Since then I have played around with the recipe. I always double the quantities (at least) because there isn't a huge yield, and instead of faffing around with a hand grater, I throw the peeled, roughly chunked ginger into a food processor and pulse for a few seconds. I have been letting it ferment for longer too, up to one week. Personally I think I prefer the shorter time, but others who have tried it are keen on a higher alcohol content.
My favourite variant has been a coral-pink rhubarb and ginger beer. I replace half the weight of ginger with rhubarb (chopped in the processor along with the ginger) and used half orange, half lemon juice. The flavour was still predominantly ginger, but you can tell the rhubarb is there.
A ginger and pear version was also good, but does come out a rather unappealing colour.