Is ginger beer… actually beer?
The short answer: not at all. Back in the day, the Brits made the original ginger beer by mixing water, sugar, ginger, other optional ingredients (lemon juice, cream of tartar), and Lactobacillus bacteria (aka, ginger beer plant or GBP), then leaving it to ferment for a few days, converting some of the sugar into alcohol (11% or less).
“Ginger beer has never been made with hops or grains and does not contain any beer at all,” says Cammarata. “Frankly, it’s closer to hard cider or wine because of the fermentation process and sugar levels.”
Now, today’s ginger beer that we know, love, and drink is arguably even less of a beer. Many ginger beers on the market contain 0.5% alcohol or less -- which meets FDA requirements to be classified as a non-alcoholic beverage. If you feel duped, don’t fret: There are some delicious alcoholic ginger beers still out there today (we’ll get to that in a bit).