July 19, 2013

Best Ginger Beers of 2013

Six ginger beers lined up - includes Reeds, Regetta, DG Ginger, The Ginger Peoples, Bunderberg and Maine Root

The most popular posts on the 2 Out of Three blog are our ginger beer reviews. And while each of the five tastings we’ve conducted used identical judging criteria, the lineup of ginger beers has varied. This has made comparisons a bit cumbersome and doing a quick lookup for specific beverages on this site can be downright frustrating. Well, we’ve set out to remedy this situation by shining a light on the American ginger beer landscape with a comprehensive guide. It is one you can download to your mobile phone for a quick consultation at the market, or print and store in your wallet for those who prefer an analog version.

Consider this a public service for those of us who go weak in the knees at the thought dark rum, ginger beer, and a splash of lime mixed and poured over ice; the devoted legions who take their ginger with vodka; or, those who prefer their ginger beer served straight and cold.

Over the years our judges — whose training consists primarily of drinking an above average number of Dark n’ Stormy’s — have settled on two favorites out of the 32 different ginger beers they’ve tasted: Fever Tree and Bundaberg. Both qualitative and quantitative evidence make it a no brainer for us to recommend you pick up one of these two when in doubt. But, personal favorites vary, so below (and in downloadable format) we’ve put together a ranking of ginger beers available in the United States with tasting notes and scores with a scale ranking between 1 and 10 (read our original tasting for details on the judging criteria).

Our ginger beer guide is portable!
Printable Pocket Guide (PDF)
Digital Pocket Guide (PNG) – save to your phones photo album

Fever Tree

Fever Tree

(score 9.16)

No ginger beer strikes a better balance between sweet and spicy than Fever Tree. Starting sweet, it lures you in, then wakes you up with a kick of ginger on the finish. While you certainly taste the fresh ginger in each bottle, at no point does it overpower or outstay its welcome. Neat, this beverage is the best drinking ginger and an excellent partner for any mixed drink.

Bundaberg

Bundaberg Ginger Beer

(score 9.0)

There are very few faults with Bundaberg. It’s refreshing and sweet, making you want to go back for another sip before you’ve finished the last. While it’s light on the spice scale, it mixes up one hell of a Dark n’ Stormy, making it the gold standard for ginger beers.

DG Ginger Beer

DG Genuine Ginger Beer

(score 8.83)

We recommend you take DG Ginger Beer out on the next hot summer day, find a shady spot, and sip away while soaking in your surroundings. This ginger is refreshing, with a sweet and light taste that finishes with a medium hit of spice.

Cock ‘n Bull

Cock 'n Bull ginger beer

(score 8.43)

Cock ‘n Bull has a brisk start and a smooth finish, and when mixed into a D ‘n S, our tasters all agreed it’s a top performer. Tasting notes included a stronger ginger scent than taste, a clear appearance and a low spiciness score.

Barritts

Barritts

(score 8.2)

This is an easy drinking ginger beer with low carbonation and very little bite. A pleasant ginger flavor with notes of citrus comes alive when mixed with rum. Average on it’s own, Barritts shines when mixed into a Dark n’ Stormy.

Regatta

Regatta Ginger Beer

(score 8.2)

Regatta does a lot right: mixed with rum and a lime it’ll give you picture-perfect storm clouds for your D n’ S. It’s very refreshing, with low levels of spice, and it has a unique chalky texture due to the stoneware bottles it’s kept in.

Maine Root

Maine Root Ginger Beer

(score 7.86)

A fresca-like color hides a solid kick of spice that intensifies as it lingers in your mouth. Its consistency is a bit syrupy and it’s flavor is more unique than most ginger beers. Support this site by picking up a couple four packs on amazon →.

Fentiman’s

Fentiman's Ginger Beer

(score 7.33)

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. You might not want to be married to this ginger beer but it certainly has it’s moments.

Schweppes

Schweppes Ginger Beer

(score 6.8)

Schweppes could aptly be called the “champagne of ginger beers.” While it lacks any distinctive flavors, it serves as a good combo in a D n’ S. Not the best but far from the worst.

Gosling’s

Goslings Ginger Beer

(score 6.66)

A serviceable ginger beer that fulfills its primary purpose as a mixer for a Dark n’ Stormy very well. Its an oddly smoky bouquet with a light trace of ginger. It has a modest spice that trails off quickly at the end. Buy a six pack, support this site →

Sioux City

Sioux City Ginger Beer

(score 6.4)

Sweeter than most ginger beers, Sioux City manages to balance nicely with its medium spice. It’s a decent ginger beer that mixes well with rum.

AJ Stephans

AJ Stephans Ginger Beer

(score 6.2)

There are likely other flavors in this ginger beer but they are difficult to detect under the spice. If you like your cocktails with a long, slow burn, this is the ginger for you.

Goya Ginger Beer

Goya Ginger Beer

(score 6.17)

Goya’s ginger beer takes late spice to a new level, crawling and coating your entire mouth. Its flavor is actually pretty decent, but its major flaw is an overpowering spice which crushes any mixed drink.

Artisan Elixirs Golden Ginger

Artisan Elixirs Golden Ginger Beer

(score 6.1)

This is one beverage you’ll either love or hate. A strong lemon flavor and notes of lychee left us enjoying the drink but comparing it to non-alcoholic offerings you might find at a trendy restaurant.

Squamscot Ginger Beer

Squamscot

(score 5.7)

A consistent burn begins early and continues rolling through until well past the after-taste. Consider this an average ginger beer with medium spice.

Buderim

Buderim Ginger

(score 5.29)

Buderim comes strong with the ginger flavor upon first taste, then lingers with a medium hit of spice. Mixed into a cocktail, the flavor is muted with the ginger being overpowered by the rum and lime.

Prince Neville’s

Prince Nevilles

(score 4.83)

Containing “raw ginger” and lacking carbonation, this beverage has more in common with raw drinks like Kombucha and is not recommended as a cocktail mixer. A sweet introduction, with notes of pineapple and ginger candy, lead to a hardy spice.

Rachel’s Ginger Beer

Rachel's Ginger Beer

(score 4.0)

Appropriate given its taste, lemon is placed ahead of ginger on the ingredient list— its tart flavor can suck the moisture out of your mouth. Rachel’s is a decent soda but not ideal for a cocktail.

Captain Eli’s

Captain Eli's

(score 2.66)

The sweet sugar cane in this beverage is too strong, muting the ginger flavor. It’s best described as a “bad soda.” Go ahead try it yourself →

Jackson Hole

Jackson Hole Ginger Beer

(score 2.6)

Lacking spice; with a medicinal scent, and a clear appearance, we liken Jackson Hole to a flat cream soda.

The Ginger Peoples

The Ginger Peoples Ginger Beer

(score 2.33)

At first pour you’ll notice a cloudy, almost grapefruit-looking appearance, as well as the strong scent of ginger.

Reed’s Extra Ginger

Reed's Extra Ginger

(score 1.5)

Reed’s is a divisive beverage. Some people love it, and others can’t stand it. Our judges fell into the latter category. Our opinion, as ginger beer tasters, is that it tastes like crap, with a few malted notes.

Reed’s Original Ginger

Reed's Original Ginger

(score 1.5)

When we posted our review of Reed’s the company founder made his way to our blog and posted a strongly worded retort. We appreciate the sentiment, but we still don’t like the stuff.

116 comments

  1. Dave Ussell on

    I’ve really enjoyed your reviews over the years but I think it would be very useful, to many who find themselves at your site, to rate each ginger beer by two different standards. A rating for the stand alone ginger beer and a rating for it as a mixer. They are not the same. Some good ginger beers make bad mixers and the reverse. Some ginger beers are good in both roles and Reed’s in neither. Believe it or not some people just like it by itself and so it’s value as a mixer is not useful. My 2 cents.

  2. Abraham on

    @Dave, thanks for the comment. Typically we include comments about each ginger beer alone and mixed into a Dark and Stormy. This allows readers to understand how they perform in the various situations. Our judges then score each ginger beer on it’s overall performance to provide a simple rating. We’ll take your suggestion of two separate scores into consideration for the next tasting.

  3. Jay on

    Well I came across this site tonight after purchasing a 2-ltr of Goya Jamaican Ginger Beer. I can say it was & was not what I had expected. I was introduced to Ginger Beer when I was a child, back in the late 70s in Bermuda, the throat hit is what I remembered the most, However I can’t remember the name of the brew. What I can tell you is the Goya had the exact same flavour and kick, truly what I was looking for, and then it hit.., the strong pepper burn on my upper lip and into my gut. Come on! It was perfect right up until this point, The burn lasted 3-4 mins, I expect a good ginger beer to hit 7-8 on the scale, and taper off quickly (30 sec) Regatta is a bit too mellow in my opinion creamy like a low carbonate root beer but not enough after-kick.

    I tried reeds once because I had never seen it before, I threw it all out, didn’t even finish a few sips, I’m sorry to say this but, I honestly thought the first bottle was tampered with, it was horribly tasting, I actually had my friend smell it to see if she thought it was made with rusty water, or if it smelled like somebody urinated in the bottle.Every one smelled just as bad. Now I’m thinking I should have grabbed the DG, But the Goya just needs something to tone it down some.. I’m betting a 30/70 mix with Regatta will bring back old memories.

  4. Katie on

    Reeds is very hit or miss. When it’s good, it’s near perfect, but that’s only about 1/3 of the time. When it is bad, I swear it tastes like someone put out their cigarette in it. Disgusting.

  5. Debby on

    Each New Year’s Eve, we do a taste test and as I have discovered a love for Mules, Moscow preferably I decided to do my own ginger beer test. I mixed .5 oz lime juice, 1.5 oz Kinky Vodka (what I had and had been drinking in my Mules) and then 4.5 oz of each ginger beer. I usually muddle some mint in my Mules but for the sake of this test, left that out. My selection was Fever Tree, Stoli (which I had been using in my Mules), and Original Reeds. I started with one that I rated an 8-9, then the next one was HORRID, is all I could taste was the vodka, and then one I rated a 6 (and recognized as the Stoli). I correctly identified them before my husband told me which ones were which. I hold to a philosophy “you get what you pay for”, Reeds was the least expensive. I also spend $30 or more on a bottle of wine (not boons farm).
    I am not sure if the Reeds was bad, it has “stuff” in it, a brownish sediment, not clear but “milky”. There was NO fiz and even drinking straight out of the bottle it was ‘YUCK’. I am going to take it back to the store and get my money back! Maybe I got a bad batch, but as I researched and came across this, is all I can say is there are people out there that drink cheap wine and beer, and possibly the 10-1 (per Reed) are the ones that drink boons farm? Maybe ginger ale? 😉
    I live in a rural area so my selection of ginger beer is limited, I am pretty tickled I came up on Fever Tree! Looks like I now will be using it for my Mules and can’t wait for the next one!!

  6. Jim Pickett on

    I welcome this forum to try our PICKETT’s Ginger Beer Concentrate and share your reviews. We think it is some of the finest available. NOTE: the product is a concentrated syrup and designed for mixing with fizzy water at a ratio of 1 part syrup to 5 parts fuzzy water. But unlike bottled or canned ginger beers, you can also adjust the mix ration to your own personal preference. We also offer 2 different spice levels – #1 Medium (more traditional spice) and #3 Hot N Spicy (a bit zippier). We designed it to handle darker spirits like Aged Rum or Bourbon, so it also makes killer miles. We welcome any and all of your feedback. Jim Pickett

  7. ianbrettcooper on

    Just FYI, ginger ale is just flavored carbonated water. Ginger beer is actually brewed (fermented). There is quite a big difference.

  8. Charles on

    I agree that Blenheim should have been considered. Especially the pink (red) tops. My favorite.

  9. John on

    While Blenheim’s is absolutely delicious, it’s a ginger ale, not a ginger beer. There is an important distinction.

    When I first tried the Ginger People brew, it was delicious. But I noticed a turpentine-like flavor at one point. The GP folks were very kind and replaced all that I had bought, but it still had the same off flavor.

    Excited to add some new ginger beers to my list of things to try, however, because I haven’t tried a few of the brands listed above.

  10. Zumajim on

    Which of course prompts me to ask how you know what turpentine tastes like. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)