recipe for ginger beer bug

Proper Old Fashioned Ginger Beer Recipe

There was a time when ginger beer bugs were found on many a Formica kitchen bench, merrily blip blipping away. Old fashioned ginger beer bugs are something many of us remember from our childhood, and although you can google recipes for making ginger beer that involve yeast and seem to be ready to drink pretty much immediately, that is not the ginger beer that I remember from mine.

As the saying goes: Good things take time. Ginger beer, as my folks used to make, involved a mysterious "bug" that sat on the kitchen bench and needed to be fed every day. It bubbled away, sending out little lava explosions of ginger now and then that could entertain a bored child for longer than you'd expect.

The liquid was drained off it once a week and mixed with sugar, water and lemon juice, then poured into glass bottles and capped with a cruel-looking clampy thing.  

ginger beer bug recipe

The bottles went into wooden crates, then into a cool place under the house, accessed by the trap-door in the wardrobe floor (true story), in the bedroom that my sister and I shared. Dad would go and fish out a few bottles as required, and it was the best ginger beer you ever tasted. Dry and spicy and the perfect drink to quench a summer thirst.

The problem was, that summer under the house, it wasn't quite as cool as you'd think, and one night the ginger beer went off like BOMBS. My sister and I were petrified, and the remaining bottles were "gingerly" removed by Dad. So ended my childhood memories of ginger beer.

Some years ago, my sister and I decided to have a stall together to use the mass of lemons we both had. We were thinking about what to sell when we hit upon the idea of selling the ginger beer recipe with all the ingredients needed to make the cherished drink of our childhood memories. So the Old Fashioned Ginger Beer Bug Kit was born. 

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We measured our ingredients, downsized the recipe to fit in a preserving jar, and did some trial runs. The taste was a trip down memory lane, and unsurprisingly the debut of this product at the Ngatimoti fair in early 2008 was a runaway success. The Country Trading Co. store was founded later the same year, and the Old Fashioned Ginger Beer Bug was one of the first products.
The rest, as they say, is history, and in the following eight years, we sold thousands of these little jars of nostalgia. We sold that many of them that I often wondered if spice traders in NZ wondered why the demand for ground ginger suddenly spiked. But all good things come to an end, and eventually, we decided to retire the Ginger Beer Bug.
Now the Country Trading Co. Old Fashioned Ginger Beer Bug recipe is yours to enjoy. We had a lot of fun from it, and I hope you will too. While you're here - take a look at our other great products for your plastic free natural kitchen.
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  • Hi there,
    This is a fantastic recipe and all our friends and family are enjoying it immensely!
    Unfortunately our bug has begun to smell a bit like vinegar (we’re on our 4th cycle now). Will the bug go on forever or do we need to start fresh every now and then?
    If this new small isn’t normal, do you have any tips to prevent this?
    Country Trading Co. replied:
    Hi ​James,  sorry to hear your bug is smelling vinegary.  They do go on forever.  Sometimes they get out of balance a bit.   Make sure you don’t leave it too long before bottling it. Don’t let it get hungry. On Thu, 27 Jul at 1:01 AM , Sunny <> wrote:

  • Hi, Can you please tell me how many days should I bottle it for a non alcoholic drink?
    Country Trading Co. replied:
    Hi Mirza, Thank you for your comment.  There is no way to prevent some alcohol being created by the fermentation process but if you bottle it and drink it within a week it will be very little.  Heather On Mon, 10 Jul at 1:00 AM , Sunny <> wrote:

  • Hello, I am part way along Day 8, can you advise whether it is better to keep an airproof lid on the bug during the process or not, i.e. just muslin?
    Have you tried any variations to this recipe? i.e. adding Fejoa.
    Country Trading Co. replied:
    ​Thanks for your question, I’d be cautious about adding fruit as it will increase the sugar content and the ferment could get out of whack.  A simple cloth lid is fine but you can also use a fermentation airlock if you want to. On Sun, 23 Apr at 9:01 AM , Sunny <> wrote:

    Christine B

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