Ask Auntie

Ginger Beer and Ginger Ale the same?

Q. I’m confused! Ginger beer and ginger ale, are they the same? Isn’t ale a type of beer?

Asks Katie in Brighton, UK.

A. Ok, so… they are really quite different actually.

I could go into the whole historical bit, about the origins and former alcohol content, etc. but that isn’t what you asked, so I’ll skip to the end.

Theoretically, ginger beer is brewed or fermented just like any other ‘beer’, while ginger ale is a drink made of water, ginger and whatever else and then carbonated in the same way as Coke or another soft drink.

Personally I prefer ginger beer, it’s a bit less fizzy, and normally a bit a less gingery as well, but has a more rounded and developed taste. I highly advocate mixing it with some rum to make a Dark ‘n’ Stormy cocktail.

As for the difference between ale and beer, tricky, very tricky, I’m not going to attempt to answer, because the beardy real ale fanatics scare me a bit. I will instead let dictionary.com do the talking:

beer noun
1. an alcoholic beverage made by brewing and fermentation from cereals, usually malted barley, and flavored with hops and the like for a slightly bitter taste.
2. any of various beverages, whether alcoholic or not, made from roots, molasses or sugar, yeast, etc.: root beer; ginger beer.
3. an individual serving of beer; a glass, can, or bottle of beer: We’ll have three beers.

ale noun
1. a malt beverage, darker, heavier, and more bitter than beer, containing about 6 percent alcohol by volume.
2. British , beer.