It was supposed to be the summer of cider, wasn’t it? So where did this sudden craze for ginger beers come from, hey? “People are going for them more even than cider,” said one bemused bottle shop chap as I stocked up for this Time Out taste test.
But why? To find out, I tucked into five (in alphabetical order), on one of the hottest nights of the year – surely perfect ginger beer weather.
Bluetongue Ginger Beer, 4.0%
A light amber affair, lacking much in the way of sparkle or lift, or indeed much in the way of ginger. Rather washed out.
Lick Pier Ginger Beer, 4.0%
Layering on the sweetness in the same way the East 9th Brewing Company lays on the stories with every release, this is a feisty, syrupy number that a bartender mate reckons is great over ice with lime and a shot of Ron Zacapa.
Matso’s Ginger Beer, 3.5%
Boasting so much spritz and ginger that my eyes water and I cough with every other mouthful. The Broome brewers must have packed a ton of ginger into this – and it works.
Robinson’s Ginger Tom, 6.0%
British classic Old Tom Strong Ale blended with Fentiman’s Ginger Beer, which sees the dark toffee of the former enlivened by the snap of the latter. A wintry post-dinner treat.
Stone’s Original Ginger Beer, 4.8%
Not really “Original” as this Brit is brewed under license in Oz. It looks like Lift and has some lime flavours accompanying a substantial yet subtle hit of ginger, before finishing quite dry.
Verdict: It seems tradition – even when passed on to brewers on the other side of the world – counts for something, with Stone’s getting the nod ahead of Matso’s no-holds-barred beast. Ginger Tom and Lick Pier have their virtues, while the best that can be said for Bluetongue’s is that the others were indeed better.
James Smith is the creator of Crafty Pint – a guide to Australian craft beer