Balance and pacing are key to making a great ginger beer. A spicy kick should introduce itself right away and continue to build for the first few moments while a subtle sweet flavor should follow, encouraging you to go back for more. Too much spice – or spice that lingers – and you’ll hesitate to take the next sip. Too much sweet, and you might as well be drinking Sprite or ginger ale. The balance was so important to the good people at Q Drinks, that they even illustrated how the story plays out with their new Ginger Beer.
Stories of an intriguing East African ginger beer had been making their way to me for a couple of years. As told by a handful of travelers, the tale was always strikingly similar: hot and sweaty under the mid-day sun, a local guide, or an ex-pat friend, introduced a brown glass bottle with an elaborate logo and a funny name over lunch in a market or neighborhood restaurant. The taste–an intense ginger burn and an explosion of carbonation–cut through the midday heat and the dusty streets leaving a lasting memory. So goes the tale of Stoney Tangawizi.
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.
Birthdays are a big deal at Kiva. Especially among our Product and User Experience Team, they’ve evolved as an opportunity to celebrate the fun personality quirks of each team member. As readers of this blog will know, my particular quirk is a fondness for ginger beer. So when my birthday arrived, the team skipped the cake and ice cream, opting instead for a gathering with ginger beer, limes and dark rum. This stellar event was organized as homage to the tastings 2 Out of Three has conducted over the past few years. Six different ginger beers were grouped into tasting stations where participants could write a review and rate each product on a scale of 1 to 10. Also included were the necessary ingredients for a Dark ‘n’ Stormy: organic limes, ice, and Gosling’s Dark Rum.
After four separate reviews I’d begun to worry that I’d written all there was to write about ginger beer. But during the second half of 2011 my luck began to change as I stumbled upon a handful of new varieties. A chance discovery at Mission Cheese Shop, a couple overlooked gingers, and a bountiful trip to Seattle led to a full cooler of five beverages yet to face the gauntlet that is a ginger beer tasting.
With the product lineup established, an esteemed panel of tasters gathered in San Francisco’s Noe Valley. Representing a cross section of experience, our judges, seven in total included veterans William Lavery, Beatrice Leung, and yours truly along with rookies Andrew Stewart, Peter Rive, Natasha Dvorak, and Wendy Wallin. In order to calibrate each judge’s palette a pre-tasting was undertaken to establish where previous ginger beers had been ranked. The criteria remained the same as our first tasting two years. Each ginger would be sampled solo and next mixed into a Dark ‘n’ Stormy – dark rum and ginger beer over ice. Judges then assigned a score between 1 and 10. Finally, an average score was computed to arrive at an overall total. After weeks of hype we settled down to the task at hand and a couple hours later the results were in.
Over the past few years on 2 Out of Three we’ve tasted our fair share of ginger beer. In four separate tastings we’ve sampled and scored over twenty-five ginger beers. Disappointingly, it had begun to appear that we had exhausted the ginger beer possibilities in the US of A. So it was with great excitement when I was served Artisan Elixir, a new entrant to the ginger pool, at the Mission Cheese Shop.
Artisan Elixer made an immediate impression with a classic yellow label and bold block text declaring itself a “Golden Ginger.” Upon inspection it was obvious this was going to be a beer to be reckoned with, with clouds of ginger and lemon sediment formed into bands throughout the bottle. On the back of the bottle the creator’s intentions are spelled out: “Perfect for MIXING / Excellent for SIPPING.” While this is a broad statement, a glance at the simple ingredient list – filtered water, organic agave, organic lemon, organic ginger and organic lemon emulsion – assured us Artisan Elixir is out to make a high quality bottle of ginger.
It’s been eighteen months since 2 Out of Three’s first ginger beer tasting was held in South Lake Tahoe. In that time the ginger landscape has changed. The old classics, Bundaberg and Cock N’ Bull, have seen their reign as ginger beer of choice challenged by a new breed. So it seemed like the perfect time to hold another tasting. This time the location was San Francisco’s Outer Sunset neighborhood. We gathered the new upstarts (Fever Tree and Goslings) and got our hands on a few classics that eluded us during the first tasting.
Last year 2 Out of Three provided a public service to all red blooded Dark & Stormy drinking Americans by tasting and reviewing as many ginger beers as we could get our hands on. With one notable exception our final reviews were well received by all who commented. Coming off this positive feedback we’ve taken our public service to the southern hemisphere where we recently traveled to taste and review the finest ginger beers that the great nation of New Zealand has to offer. The country has a long tradition of brewing excellent ginger beers and it was a pleasure to travel the island, easily finding this great beverage in most cafes and markets.
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.
A public service is any service rendered for the greater good of the public interest. And in that spirit 2 Out of Three, in association with the Best Cabin ever, held it’s first ever ginger beer tasting on March 21 in South Lake Tahoe. The mission was to establish a pecking order for ginger beers, specifically in the mixation of a Dark ‘n Stormy. The blue ribbon panel consisted of veteran Dark ‘n Stormy tasters, including, but not limited to William Lavery, Robert “Frodo” Sostak, Bea Leung and yours truly.