April 22, 2009

Ginger Beer Tasting Part II

Ginger Beer Tasting

Editors Note:

A lot has changed sense I wrote this post in 2009. Check out our new website The Better Mixer for an up to date list of the best ginger beers. You’ll also be able to leave your own rating, write a glowing review, or rant for the world to see.


It’s only been a week since the release of the first installment from our Ginger Beer Tasting and we’ve already heard reports of a more educated public because of it. With seven reviewed brands down, we’re excited to present the final eight ginger beers from our South Lake Tahoe tasting.

Reed’s “Original Ginger”

Reed's Original Ginger

(score 1.17) (final rank 14 of 15)

Confusion abounds with Reed’s. Different flavors with only minor variations in label design (“Ginger Brew”, “Ginger Ale”, “Ginger Beer” – please Reed’s make up your mind) can lead to confusion within their product line. Our tasting included both Reed’s “Original Ginger” and Reed’s “Extra Ginger”, both of which tasted nearly identical. Which is to say both tasted like crap, with a few malted notes. While he was most likely exaggerating one of our judges exclaimed “I’d rather lick the inside of a toilet bowl than take another sip”. It’s a shame that Reed’s can be commonly found in most local supermarkets. This potential public health threat should be immediately banned before hallucinations and chemical dependence grip the untrained Dark ‘n Stormy drinking population.

Goya Ginger Beer

Goya ginger beer

(score 6.17) (final rank 9 of 15)

Late spice is an occupational hazard when tasting ginger beer, just when you think that last sip is gone for good that burning sensation in the back of your throat kicks in. Goya’s ginger beer takes the late spice to a new level, crawling and coating your entire mouth. It’s clear pale yellow color allows for classic storm formations when mixing a D ‘n S. It’s flavor is actually pretty decent, the major flaw is an overpowering spice (8 on the spice scale) which crushes the rum and lime.

Fentiman’s

Fentiman's Ginger Beer

(score 6.17) (final rank 9 of 15)

You might call Fentiman’s the Ike Turner of ginger beers. It’s just sweet enough to convince you to keep sipping, while in the back of your mind you know the spice is going to hit you soon enough. On first inspection a cloudy white appearance masks that underbelly of spice (5 on the spice scale) and lures you in with sweet lavender and herbal notes. Once the rum and lime get added things just get smoother. Compliment after compliment were thrown around by our judges, who were particularly impressed by its balance. Similar to Ike you might not want to be married to this ginger beer but it certainly has it’s moments.

DG Ginger Beer

DG Ginger Beer

(score 8.83) (final rank 2 of 15)

Directions for a memorable hot summer day:

  • Locate a body of water – an ocean is preferable but a lake or river will suffice.
  • Participate in a mildly strenuous activity. Sailing or boating for the more motivated, badminton for those without sea legs.
  • Find a seat in the shade, open a can of DG Genuine, add Gosslings rum and a lime, sip and enjoy the view. Repeat until sunset.

If you can’t tell by now our judges really enjoyed the DG and can’t wait to pack a cooler full of ’em on the next 80 degree day. Tasting notes included: sweet, light, refreshing with a medium spice (4 on the spice scale). A surprise contender for the #1 spot in this tasting, DG might be difficult to find but it’s worth the effort. *Update: DG Ginger Beer is available on Amazon – purchase through this affiliate link and you’ll be supporting this site.

Regatta

Regatta Ginger Beer

(score 8.2) (final rank 4 of 15)

Bermuda stone means once the ginger beer is brewed it’s stored in stoneware bottles to maintain the natural effervescence. This may account for the cloudy appearance and chalky consistency. It’s a bit of an insult to call Regatta “pedestrian” because it’s an excellent ginger beer – easily in the top four of this tasting. But it’s fault may be in the lack of spice (1 on the spice scale), without any spice you’re left waiting for a bite that never comes. However, Regatta does a lot right: mixed with rum and a lime it’s gives off the required storm clouds, it’s very refreshing, and it has a unique texture. One of our judges may have said it best “It’s anti-climatic, good, but not distinctive”. That being said I’d be far from disappointed to climb aboard the sail boat that adorns the bottle and find it stocked with Regatta.

Reed’s “Extra Ginger”

Redd's Extra

(score 1.5) (final rank 13 of 15)

Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. Our judges were not about to be fooled twice by Reed’s and after a quick sip of their “Extra Ginger” it was determined that it is as awful as the Original (see above review) and no more time needs to be spent on it…

AJ Stephans

AJ Stephans Ginger Beer

(score 6.2) (final rank 8 of 15)

A few of our judges had sampled this particular ginger on new years eve and the memory that stuck was one of spice, lots and lots of spice. Very little had changed in a few months as one judge exclaimed “It tastes like burning”. Jamaican ginger beers like AJ Stephenes are not typically the first choice for a Dark ‘n Stormy as their spice can drown out any other flavors. But in this case it can be a decent change of pace to your typical D ‘n S. The mix is smooth and creates a nice combo with the rum and lime, just be ready for a long burn.

Schweppes

Schweppes Ginger Beer

(score 6.8) (final rank 7 of 15)

An advertisement from the 50’s for Schweppes Ginger Beer extols its virtues and describes it as Schweppervescence. Little has changed in the past 60 years and I can hardly find a better word to describe their current ginger beer. Packed into a small 10 oz bottle this ginger is bubble, sweet and has very little spice. It could aptly be called the “champagne of ginger beers”. While it lack any distinctive flavors it servers as a good combo in a D n S. Not the best but far from the worst Schweppes finished with a solid score putting it in the top half of all the ginger beers tasted.

It was the best of ginger, it was the worst of ginger; it tasted smooth and crisp, it tasted strong and spicy; it was the height of mixology, it was a jumble of flavors; it was the zest of lime and it was the consistency of molasses. We had fifteen before us, then we had none left. We were all anticipating the tasting and then we were all sick of tasting ’em. This was the South Lake Tahoe Ginger Beer Tasting.

A few images from the tasting
A view of the tasting menu

Bea Leung calculating the scores

Will Lavery sampling a Dark and Stormy

The pour

53 comments

  1. Chris Reed on

    If you grew up drinking ginger beers and acquired a taste for the high tech swill that passes for ginger beer and someone made you a fresh version from fresh ginger and spices and natural ingredients you might hate my stuff. But if you had not acquired that weird taste for crap you would be like the rest of the world who drinks my stuff 10 to one to the stuff your lovin. see it all the time. try to serve Chardonnay to a boonsfarm drinker.

  2. abe on

    Chris: I assume you are responding to the poor review we gave Reed’s Ginger Beer. It seems to be a divisive beverage – recently a few of people have told me they love it and others can’t stand it. Our judges fell into the later category.

    What can I tell you….we conducted our tasting as fairly as possible and Reed’s came out at the bottom. I’m sure you are just as impartial with your opinion. It’s not like you are the CEO and Founder of one these ginger beer companies, are you?

  3. Cy Guy on

    Could you explain how the ranking system varies from the scores? particularly
    Regatta [score 8.83] [final rank 4 of 15]
    versus
    Cock ‘n Bull [score 8.43] [final rank 3 of 15]

    your descriptions seem to agree with the ranking of C&B above Regatta, but I find it curious that the scores don’t agree.
    =====

    Also, I found your site looking for a review of Blenheim’s but don’t see it included here. How would you rate their regular and hot for use in a D&S? The Wine editor at the SF Chron, Jon Bonne, seems to prefer it for D&S.

    =====

    Last, can you next review rums to use for a D&S – I’ve tried Goslings, Goslings 150, and Cruzan Navy – I think the Goslings 150 is a little to hot to be mixed with ginger beer. But I’d use either of the other two depending on my mood and which ginger beer I’m mixing with.

    Cy Guy

  4. abe on

    Cy Guy: Thanks for the comment & questions.

    I have corrected the score for Regatta, 8.83 was incorrect, it actually scored 8.2. Placing it 4th in the rankings

    =====

    I was not able to find Blenheim’s anywhere in the Bay Area. If you have a lead on where I can pick some up I’d love to try it.

    =====

    As far as Rums in a D & S go I’ve never found anything better than Goslings. It seems to be the best mix of price and quality around. Pyrat Rum is excellent but a bit to light and too good to put in a mixed drink. Sailor Jerry is also the light side but works well.

    The other common dark rums that I’ve found in stores are Captain Morgan’s Dark, Bacardi Dark and Myers. All of which I would stay away from. Myers is a complete dog and ruins the entire drink.

    I’m sure our ginger beer tasters would be happy to participate in a dark rum tastings, I’ll try and organize this summer.

  5. Jesse on

    Thanks for the research on the ginger beer, guys! I have to say I’ve only had a few ginger beers, and never really took notes. There was a canned one I had in the Caribbean that made a deliciously smooth and even dark and stormy. The ginger wasn’t overpowering, but it was definitely there and governed the flavor. I’ll have to ask my brother which brand it is.

    I’ve had the Ginger People beer a few times. The first time I had it, it was amazing. It had a very fresh ginger kick but a smoothness at the same time. After such a good reaction, I bought some more and wasn’t impressed at all. Perhaps the batches are very inconsistent.

    Thanks a bunch for the guide, I’ll have to do some experimenting to see if I agree with your team’s deductions. 🙂

  6. MS on

    my 2 cents – i just finished a bottle of DG and it was excellent. and i’m a big ginger beer fan. in my local grocery store for $1. now recently i bought a 6 pack of Barrits (not reviewed) which is well respected. good stuff for sure – but at about $2 per can does not match the value of DG

  7. abe on

    @Theormaametle – Thanks for the complement on the WordPress template. It is a custom designed/built template to match my own website.

  8. Matt Parks on

    A little late on this post… but recently found myself yearning for a delectable ginger beer. Pretty astounded about the low review of Reed’s. I maybe attribute it to mixing dark n’ stormy’s as Reed’s does not typically mix well with dark rum… However, mix a little Reed’s extra with a vodka drink (moscow mule) 🙂 and the vodka cuts the sweetness considerably and it rounds out to a nice drink. I’ve got a few reviews myself coming as this post has me searching for the best. I have to agree on the Maine Root, it has proven to be my favorite yet. Thanks for the wide array of reviews. I have one to add for you (JCS Brand) and will post the link to my blog once the reviews are up.

  9. Robin Roarke on

    I have tried Reeds (both), Blue Sky and a few other’s that didn’t hold a candle to Goya…I love anything ginger and the kick of spices I crave. I have never been a soda drinker but after finding Goya ginger beer I aimlessly look for place to buy it, this is not an easy task, so when I find it I usually by all they have on the self (not kidding) people look at me like I am nuts…maybe so!

    By the way, if you are a crazy ginger freak like me try Triple Ginger Cookies by Back to Nature….not easy to find either (usually in whole/natural foods) but absolutely worth the search.

    Longing for Ginger In sunny Venice FL

  10. Zareba on

    Been drinking Ginger Beers and Brews a long time…

    The Aussies have the best… Bundaberg Ginger Beer… It’s got bits in it and no High Fructose Corn Syrup… they use old fashion sugar… The closest to it is the Goya then Maine Root Ginger Brew

  11. Linda on

    I with you on the Bundy! Never had another as good but the heat of the Goya comes a close second. Alas, no ginger bits though.

  12. Jack on

    thank you guys for calling out reed’s. I’m in NYC and increasingly it’s all I can find anywhere (so of course I buy nothing rather than tainting my goslings with something that tastes like it should be cleaning mold from bathroom tiles). There’s hardly any regatta anywhere and no goya (my personal favorite).

    How do you think we could best go on a campaign to get shop owners to stop stocking reed’s?

  13. Abraham on

    @Jack, Thanks for the comment. I’m continually amazed that Reed’s is the most readily available ginger beer wherever I go in the US. Might just go to show it has a large following.

    Seeing as you’re on the east coast you might be able to find Barritts which we reviewed in our 2010 ginger beer tasting. It got high marks and mixes very well in a D&S.

  14. Robin Roarke on

    I finally got tired of my endless search for Goya and went to the local grocery store and asked if they could order me 4-5 cases when their Goya rep came in…they did and I am happy again sitting on the beach drinking my dark and stormy in one of the most beautiful place in the world~ Gulf or Mexico shoreline in Florida. Hearing of the Aussies “Bundaberg”…think I am going to book a vacation…

  15. Joshua on

    Thanks for the great review. I appreciated all of those who contributed with comments as well.
    Although I may be a little late in joining the conversation, I recently drank my first ginger beer and I’m hooked.
    I had a Cock n’ Bull on our most recent trip to Portland and I’ve been trying to find it around here in southern Oregon ever since. It has not been easy and I’ve only been able to find a couple of other brands that have not lived up to the taste or good burn I’ve come to crave. I will be stocking up in our next trip.

  16. David Spalding on

    I grew up with Cock ‘n Bull at the Dickens Christmas Faire and can tell you the memories (like the “swill”) are so strong I can still recall each sensation going down, and belching back up. I had no idea someone had started it back up….

    For my own D&S, I favor Kraken — a darker, stronger rum that will get you a new tattoo, and the verses of “Spanish Ladies” ringing in your head for days. I like Mr. Reed’s “Extra Ginger” but not as a mixer. Bundaberg is a good substitute if Barritts isn’t around to be found. (Can you believe I bought it by the case on St. John? D&S’ every night after snorkeling all day. Heaven.)

  17. Abraham on

    @Dave, love hearing that ginger beer harkens back to memories of your childhood. Thanks for the Kraken recommendation, I’m looking forward to trying it in a D&S.

  18. David Spalding on

    After returning home to North Carolina, I tried more brands and methods of making the D&S. Blenheim Ol’ #3 (red cap) is not for the beginners, and makes a memorable D&S you have to sip for safety’s sake. Regatta grew on me in Calfornia, but alas, no one here carries it. I’m beginning to really like Fever Tree. If you can get it in their 16.9oz bottle, it’s not too pricey. Fever Tree has that “burn” quality that some of the other ginger beers like Fentimans tone down.

    Barritts in the bottle is definitely different tasting than their canned variety, not just because they use HFCS in the can, and cane sugar in the bottle. The bottled stuff has a distinct citrus flavor, negating the lime garnish on the finished drink. Overall, nice flavor, but for roughly the same price, I can have Fever Tree — like the difference between taking a Honda Civic, or an Integra Type-R, on a spin down Highway 1. Both’ll getcha there, but….

  19. Abraham on

    @David, great tip on Barritts containing high fructose corn syrup in the can but not the bottle. For the longest time it was just about impossible to buy Barritts in California but I’ve finally started to see it show up – found it at BevMo in San Francisco.

  20. Willy on

    RUM for the D&S: Subjective fave is Kraken. Close #2 is Goslings. Sailor Jerry’s is also worthy. Completely stay from Cp’t Morgan, Bacardi, & Myers (Though I will abashedly admit to mixing with 151 just to catch up with the party…then someone—I forget who—passed me the pipe and good lord I was dancing!

  21. Abraham on

    @Willy, Thanks for the rundown on rums. I’ve yet to try Kraken but a lot of people are raving about it. I’m a Goslings guy but agree Sailor Jerry is an acceptable substitute. Worst D&S’s I ever had was made with Myers’s rum – won’t touch the stuff again. On a side note what’s with the spelling of Myers’s – two S’s?

  22. Zac on

    Hi my name is Zac Dickinson and I am a primary school teacher. We have been creating ginger beer in the last term of school, designing our own lable, jingles and sologans. We are having our final ginger beer tasting this friday and i am looking for a judging template. Could anyone help me out?

  23. Abraham on

    @Zac, it’s great to hear you’ve got the little one’s brewing up some good ginger. We don’t have an official judging template to share. We simply had the group sample each beverage and then asked them to give a score on a scale of 1-10. Additionally, we encouraged each judge to provide a short description of each beverage.

  24. harry on

    Unfortunately, I couldnt agree more regarding Reeds “Original”. Don’t like to bash, but this simply tastes horrible. It may have been a bad batch or maybe it was out of code, but it was so lousy tasting that I won’t take the chance of byuing another overpriced six pack. Doesn’t the company realize what an inferior product they make?

  25. Xavier_Ninnis on

    I don’t know how relevant my comment will be, being that it’s late, very, and that I don’t drink alcohol. What I do drink is ginger beer; lots and lots of ginger beer. Therefore I had to chime in to defend your panning of Reed’s, their stuff is quite simply godawful. (Interestingly, they’re the same outfit that, under the name Virgil’s, produces a root beer which is SPECTACULAR! Weird huh?)
    One more thing, it’s appears as though the brand “Fever Tree” had not either hadn’t yet made it to your area, or was just starting up (afaik, it’s a pretty new label).
    Anywhosits, you definitely want to give Fever Tree a go. Along with Fentiman’s, Bundaberg and DG, I put it in my top four; with Cock and Bull a distant number five. (Having never run across Regatta, there’s obviously a need for me to get ahold of a sample).

  26. Basil on

    Can’t disagree more with the review of Reeds. A fair amount of other ginger ales/beers taste just like sugar water with a small hint of ginger e.g. Dominion, DG, Goya.

    Reed’s is sweet but it doesn’t have that weak sugar water taste as mentioned above. You can still taste the sharp ginger bite and the carbonation is on point. Agree to disagree I guess.

    Also, i have zuspiscions about the guy above talking about Reed’s six packs: I have only seen Reed’s in 4 packs.

  27. Brandon W Carter on

    Just so you know, a Dark and Stormy is traditionally made with Myer’s Black. I’m sorry you feel that it ruins the drink, but that’s actually how it was meant to be made. I myself make it with Kraken.

  28. Abraham on

    @Brandon, thanks for the comment. This is splitting hairs but my understanding is a “Dark n’ Stormy” is one of the few cocktails trademarked by an alcohol producer. As such it can only be made with Gosling’s Black Seal rum. Now if you were to make a “Dark and Stormy” you’re free to use any dark rum you deem appropriate.

  29. G. Wilker on

    Bundy’s always been a favorite of mine. I only wish the World Market around here had it stocked… but Goya’s a close second. I love that heat.

    Also Chris, I’m sorry to say but your post came off as incredibly arrogant, rude, and unprofessional. And it certainly does not make me want to buy any of your company’s products anytime soon. I will enjoy my “swill”, thank you very much.

  30. Dave Ussell on

    Recently went to a good liquor store and bought one of each ginger beer they had and over a few days tried each. Most aligned with your ratings. Didn’t care for the Fentimans but is was nirvana compared to the crap Reed’s turns out. Fever Tree and Bundaberg were the best by far but I also tried River City ginger beer which I didn’t see in your ratings but found quite good.

  31. Abraham on

    @Dave, thanks for the comment. I recently discovered River City and it tasted pretty good (although I was disappointed “ginger” was not listed in the list of ingredients).

  32. Dave Ussell on

    Good and very important point. Sorry for the oversight. It must come under natural flavors. I’ll check with them and report back if they respond.

  33. R B Vance on

    I totally agree with the earlier comment about Stewart’s. My wife and I were introduced to it in the ’80’s in Santa Fe by a wealthy benefactor of the college we were attending at the time. We were faithful Stewart’s patrons until it mysteriously disappeared a few years ago. Sorry to hear Schweppes was responsible for that travesty. We have tried every brand the local World Market has carried but haven’t found anything worth buying twice. There was one that we pitched after half a bottle, but can’t honestly recall if it was Ginger People or Reed’s. Thanks, Abraham, for your dedicated cataloging of ginger beer quality; it is a service to humanity, or at least to our quest to find a palatable replacement for Stewart’s. I now have something to look forward to…starting with Fever Tree.

  34. Abraham on

    @R B It’s too bad Stewart’s Ginger Beer has disappeared. Many people swore it was the best ginger beer due to it’s hearty ginger burn. You may want to give AJ Stephans or Goya ginger beer a try as they also contain a very strong kick of ginger flavor.

  35. Jason on

    I’m in agreement on the Reed’s being terrible. Like others, I’m partial to the Goya, although I haven’t tried too many. If you’re not into the spice, avoid the Goya…otherwise I love it in a dark ‘n stormy…just steer clear of the Reed’s.

  36. Dos_burrito on

    Maybe reeds sits too long? I understand you try to make a fresh product. I’ve never had a good one

    D&g, barrits, good-o, olde tyme and goslings/regatta

  37. Rick Walter on

    Hello, I found your taste evaluations quite helpful. I just wanted the readers to know that Goya, my favorite because of the spiciness actually contains capsicum (pepper spray) as one of the ingredients. No wonder you cant drink more than 2 of these at a time.

  38. Jeffery Boones on

    If you grew up drinking fine wine and aquired a taste for the high tech swill that passes for FW and someone made you a fresh Strawberry HIll or Blue Hawaiian you might hate my stuff CHRIS! But if you had not acquired that weird taste for crap you would be like the rest of the world who drinks my stuff 10 to one to the stuff your lovin. See it all the time. try to serve your Sulphur tasting crap to a ginger beer drinker. Boones farm be in Walmart dawg.

  39. Barrie on

    Um..I know it’s an old article. But it’s ironic that you mention give Reed’s Ginger a bad review, then turn around and say it has a “few malted notes”? Really..it’s not a beer, it’s free of liquor and malt that is used to make beer. Actually Reed’s was one of the original ones, and was the drink I would have in Jamaica (which earned the name Ginger
    Beer by the locals there in the late 80s, early 90s.) It’s more of a strong ginger ale (when cooled) than a “ginger beer”. Just ridiculous review to lump it in the same category as the alcohol-containing beers.

  40. Dave on

    I actually really enjoy Reed’s. I’m an alcoholic, haven’t touched booze in six years but when I was actively drinking it was a fifth to a half gallon of vodka and/or rum per day. Once I quit I went with seltzers, flavored waters, and ginger beers. I’ve tried a ton of varieties, probably 50 different brands while traveling around the world. Reed’s isn’t my favorite but it’s consistently good, at least I think so, and my local Safeway carries it so that’s nice. Anyway, everyone’s entitled to their opinions, thanks for your site!

  41. jamaican on

    To the posters from Venice, FL and NYC, you should be able to find DG ginger beer at a Jamaican restaurant/ goods store, which in FL and Brooklyn you should be able to find many. Happy drinking!

  42. Robin on

    Tired of the search, now making my own and I can turn Da’heat’Up with my ginger, cinnamon, clove & dash cayenne!

  43. Mary on

    I just came across this post coz I never tried any ginger beers or ginger ales before and just very recently wanted to try them out. So I did purchase a bunch of different brands that I can find in my local supermarket, and although most of the brands you list here aren’t available where I am, a few I have tried and I do find your rating very helpful.
    Out of the ginger beers I had, Bundaberg was by far the best as I can really taste the ginger and it was superb. And I do find the Reed’s CEO comments hilarious but I do agree with your rating though as I was disappointed with the taste, it was too carbonated for me that it overwhelmed any ginger although there was this aftertaste that I can’t quite figure out what it was, but I didn’t like it one bit.
    Thanks for these ratings! Really helpful!

  44. Abraham on

    Thanks everyone for the spirited comments. It’s always fun to see the diversity of opinions regarding ginger beers. I’ve been working on a new website for just such debates.

    Check out http://thebettermixer.com

    You can leave your own rating, write a glowing review, or rant for the world to see.