Ginger boom

Hard ginger beer enters Colorado as the spicy root makes its way into other beverages

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Halyard Brewing

I once had an alcoholic ginger beer brewed at Mountain Sun and as soon as the crisp and spicy brew hit my lips, I thought, “This needs to be more common.”

Ginger ale — you know it from being sick and riding in airplanes — is different from ginger beer, a darker, cloudier, alcoholic version that gained popularity in Victorian England. The beer made it stateside, but Prohibition put an end to that, and the style was all but forgotten about.

Now, modern varieties of both ginger beer and ale are generally non-alcoholic, but a few brewers (like Mountain Sun) have bucked the trend. Vermont’s Halyard Brewing, which is now entering Colorado with a line of hard ginger beer, uses an historic recipe to recreate the brew.

Halyard founder and brewer Kenneth Richards is using recipes that date back to the 1750s, and using organic and fair-trade ingredients to brew these ginger beers through a natural fermentation process.

Available in Whole Foods and other distributors across the state, the varieties include Nicole’s Extra (6% ABV), a Caribbean-style ginger beer with “Island aromatics”; The Breeze (4.5% ABV), a tart ginger beer brewed with hibiscus flowers and fresh lime juice; Volcano Juice (4.1% ABV), a ginger beer shandy brewed with organic lemons; and Mountain-Aid, a black currant ginger beer — tart and juicy.

It makes sense the first foray out of the northeast for Halyard’s ginger beer is in Colorado — Richards completed his graduate program and met his wife out here. Too, his great-grandmother was born in a Western Slope mining camp, and his grandfather helped build the old lodge at Eldora.

It’ll be interesting to see if hard ginger beer catches on. It’s certainly different than the flash-in-the-pan trend toward hard root beers and other sodas, which were a bit saccharine. And in some ways, the flavor profile and texture of the drink is similar to hard kombucha, which entered the market a few years ago and is still working its way up. Several hard kombucha makers have ginger options — like California’s Boochcraft, which makes a pleasant ginger lime version at 7% ABV. It’s got fresh-pressed ginger, lime juice and rosehips atop the kombucha base, which makes for a slightly sour, but well-spiced sip.

Craft, canned cocktails have also taken the dive into ginger. Loveland-based Kure’s Craft Beverage Co.’s flagship product is its robust, non-alcoholic ginger beer, but it cans cocktails using that as a base. The canned Colorado Mule, for instance, adds vodka and lime juice for a 7% ABV beverage. And Boulder’s Cocktail Squad makes a 5% ABV, zero-sugar, 90-calorie whiskey ginger.

Cape Cod’s Willie’s Superbrew makes a ginger lemon seltzer, which sounds eminently refreshing, and we’re sure ginger’s going to sneak into more cans of craft seltzer as that sector continues to grow, too.