When I was a kid and went to the grocery store with my dad to help (which I think at that time was trying to charm him in to buying a box of Count Chocula), we would always get a few bottles of Ginger Beer. It was non-alcoholic of course, and the name of our favourite brand escapes me. It came in little stubby bottles and I think there was a sea captain or a pirate on the logo. We would always have it with a spicy dish, or sometimes even with my mom’s famous Crackers Chicken, where the fiery burn of the ginger would go perfectly with the slight hint of squeezed lemon from the chicken. My dad and I would have a sort of contest to see how much of the ginger beer we could drink in one go before the burn would finally get to us and we would cough with tears in our eyes. I always lost. Well, come on I was like, FIVE.
Anyone who knows me in person knows that while I really love beers with such graceful and subtle tasting notes, I also love an assault on my senses. A beer that makes your eyes bulge and leaves you whimpering for some water. A somewhat recent example was in October at Cask Days where one of my favourite beers there was “Call of Brewty Black Chipotle Schwarzbier” by Black Oak. Basically, the brewer, Alan Brown, just dumped a crap load of smoked Chipotle in to about 40 litres of beer. The end result was something that cleared the senses, dissolved any phlegm or foodstuff in your throat and made you gasp for breath. I really enjoyed it and after my initial half pint I went back for a full one.
Okay, so there’s some context for this.
With all that said, I’ve found it quite difficult to find an alcoholic Ginger Beer that I love. Which really sucks, since spring is sorta-kinda here and the nice warmth of the ginger in a beer can really match the season well. I can’t even find something that meets me halfway and provides a mild, ginger-forward burn. Crabbie’s? Might as well be soda pop. Wychwood’s Ginger Beard? A sugary disappointment. I’m sure there are good ones out there in the world, but being in Ontario with fun little laws about that stuff, I can’t really get access to it.
Annoyed by the lack of great ginger beers available to me, I did what almost every person in their 20s in North America does when they have a minor gripe: I complained on twitter.
I was genuinely surprised that Ginger Beers weren’t a thing in the province let alone the city of Toronto but, always eager to be corrected or proved wrong, I asked if anyone had any leads. It was then that the folks at Liberty Village Brewing Co. responded.
Liberty Village Brewing are a new brewery here in Toronto and are named after the beautiful old district of the city where they will also be located soon. With their first batch, 504 Pale Ale, just having been put on kegs early this week after brewing it at Junction Craft Brewing, the beer promises to be an excellent addition to the Toronto beer scene along with several homebrew efforts that will make it out as one-offs or seasonals. Among them a beer made with Gummi Bears, a Gose and…a Black Ginger Beer named “Exodus”.
Intrigued, I met up with Steve Combes from the brewery, who gave me a bottle of Exodus and told me a little bit about it, how it was a tribute to Reggae music and that the opinion of some at the brewery was that the ginger notes were too harsh. I was excited and tried it that night.
And you know…it was really interesting and the closest I’ve come to the flavours that I seek in a good Ginger Beer. The darkness of the beer was a bit of a wild card and very interesting to experience, as was the coffee and slight chocolate notes that came with it and, really, were the star of the show, but right in the back there, almost like a harsh, burning ember keeping a fire alive, or a slumbering old god waiting, was the ginger in all it’s strong and firey glory. Although things may have changed since I last talked with Steve, but apparently this beer may be a one-off they include in their very diverse line and I will definitely be excited to go to their location for a glass.
But I’m not going to let the journey end there. I have an intention to at least try out a recipe of my own for a Ginger Beer (Actually thinking of a Ginger Weiss) and will always be on the lookout for a damn good ginger beer. If you have any suggestions, I don’t care where you live, please post them in the comments section. And if you’re a brewer here in Ontario, don’t make me beg for a one-off (seriously though, I will totally beg).
Alright, I think I’ve talked enough for now. Take care, folks.