I’m not certain about many things in this world (will the Braves be good this year? Will the IRS accept my stack of sandwich loyalty cards as my annual tax payment?) but I am absolutely certain that everybody loves ginger beer. Because how could you not? It’s spicy, it’s refreshing, it’s like you’re taking your taste buds on a little adventure with every single sip. So, I was psyched when I got ahold of these three different ginger beers by Brooklyn Crafted. The company just released a new line of flavored ginger beer in mini seven-ounce bottles. They sent us the Traditional, Mango and the Extra Spicy, but they also make an Earl Gray and Lemon Lime flavored ginger beers. They make a couple of sugar free versions too, but as a rule, sugar free ginger beer sucks, so I’m not going to waste our time on that.
Now, what’s the difference between a ginger beer and ginger ale? Back in the day (a couple hundred years ago) ginger beer was actually brewed and contained alcohol. Ginger ale isn’t as old and was apparently invented in Canada. It’s basically carbonated water flavored with ginger, but has never had any alcohol content. The two taste a little different too. Ginger beer is a little more intense, while ginger ale comes off as slightly watered down, but more carbonated. Today, you can get alcoholic ginger beer or non-alcoholic ginger beer. Both categories are exploding with small batch outfits popping up at an unusually high pace, which is Exhibit A in the defense of my assertion that “everybody loves ginger beer.” Chances are you know a hipster who brews/sells/distributes ginger beer. Just ask around.
As for these three versions from Brooklyn Crafted…they don’t disappoint. Here are my thoughts on each flavor.
One of the exciting things about reviewing ginger beer is that I can get my kids to help me out with the tasting notes. I can’t do that with most of the beverages that grace my desk without getting social services involved.
Here’s what my kids said about Brooklyn Crafted Traditional:
“Has a kick in the back of my lungs.”
“It’s good for my sinuses.”
All accurate descriptions of this ginger beer, which is assertive and spicy. Brooklyn Crafted makes unfiltered ginger beer, so there are bits of ginger and ginger sediment floating around in the tiny bottle. You’re supposed to shake it gently before drinking. There’s a bit of a kick from all that ginger spice, and while I don’t typically like food floating around in my drinks, it works in this situation. I’m also happy that there are only a few ingredients listed on the label (carbonated water, ginger, ginger extract, pure cane sugar, citric acid) and I know what all of them are.
Because I’m from the South, I use Blenheim’s Ginger Ale as the gold standard that all ginger ales and beers are judged against. Brooklyn Crafted Traditional is right up there with Blenheim’s Gold Cap “not as hot.” It’s refreshing without being too sweet and has that ginger kick that I so desperately need. But it’s not so spicy that it turns kids and those with weak constitutions away.
Pro tip: Keep gently swirling the bottle as you drink it, otherwise all of that ginger goodness will find its way to the bottom of the bottle and that last sip will be spicy as hell.
I was ready to dislike the Mango because when I’m drinking a ginger beer, the only flavor I’m looking for is “ginger.” And the mango is surprisingly strong on the nose, and it dominates the sip as well, adding a mellow layer of fruity sweetness to this bottle. It’s mango first and ginger second, which I thought would piss me off, but honestly, I dig it. Maybe it’s because I don’t get the chance to drink a lot of mango-flavored sodas (why is that?), but as I made my way through the bottle, the drink grew on me, kind of like Talladega Nights. The first time I watched it, I thought it was okay. But by my 32nd viewing, I was convinced that Ricky Bobby was my personal savior and the movie contained all of the wisdom of the universe.
Surprisingly, my kids didn’t like the Mango. Haters.
I’d like for there to be more spice in the bottle, but I could see drinking this in the summer time, maybe with some vodka thrown in.
In fact, here’s a recipe from Brooklyn Crafted.
1.5 oz. Peach Vodka
3.5 oz. Mango Ginger Beer
Directions: Stir with ice in a tall glass, sit on a porch and fan yourself saying “I declare” every few minutes.
My kids wouldn’t even take a sip of this one because the red “Extra Spicy” on the label scared the shit out of them. I was excited to dig into it, thinking that if the Traditional had such a zesty nature that the Extra Spicy must be downright flammable. And when I cracked the top off the bottle, my nostrils burned with enticing ginger. But on the sip, it was maybe a little bit spicier than the Traditional.
But the heat accrues with this one, building with each sip, although it never reaches novelty hot level. Which is a good thing. I don’t want a drink that’s simply “hot.” I want that heat to serve a greater purpose and balance out the sweet nature of the soda. And that’s what happens in Extra Spicy. It all works together (much like Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton Jr. in Talladega Nights). Ultimately, this is probably my favorite of the three flavors and might be one of the best straight ginger beers on the market, but I won’t know that until we do a side by side tasting, which should be in the works now that I think about it.
Because the Extra Spicy has some zing, it serves as a solid backbone for cocktails like the Moscow Mule. I had some rum handy so I made a Dark n’ Stormy. And it was delicious, the rum adding a bit of sweetness but not overpowering the spice of the ginger beer. But honestly, I like this ginger beer best on its own, without being deluded by booze. And that’s saying something, because 99.9% of the time, if I have the chance, I’ll opt to put booze in my glass.