It can be challenging to find delicious non-alcoholic things to drink with any local ingredients, beyond fruit ciders. I drink a lot of (non-local) tea every day, but I don’t like kombucha and I’m not afraid to admit it. The idea of fermented ginger beer was new to me, but after trying Sweet Farm Ginger Beer on tap at Common Market in Frederick, I’ve found my go-to local drink.
Fermented ginger beer is similar to kombucha, brewed with a probiotic starter called a “ginger plant” or “ginger bug” instead of the “scoby” probiotic that creates kombucha. Kombucha is made with tea and sugar, while ginger beer is made with ginger and sugar. The degree of fermentation produced in both beverages is enough to make them happily fizzy, but not enough to make them measurably alcoholic.
Sweet Farm Original Ginger Beer is a really crisp and refreshing drink, pulled cold from the tap into its distinctive mini-growlers at Common Market. The Double Ginger is extra-spicy. But my go-to flavor is the Forager Ginger Beer. Its added layers of complex flavor come from a mix of herbs and botanicals curated by the folks at Frederick’s McClintock Distilling for their Forager Gin. This mix includes botanicals native to the Appalachian foothills of Western Maryland, such as honeysuckle, meadowsweet flower, cranesbill root, and nettle leaf, along with a dozen other herbs and spices.
I had hoped to meet Rachel Armistead, Sweet Farm co-founder, this afternoon at the Mother Earth News Fair, where she was holding a workshop for kids on making fermented sodas. But the rain was relentless and we had to bail before her talk. So I didn’t get to take home a little ginger plant, as the program promised. (There was no published age limit for the kids workshop 😉 ) But I did get my two bottle refills at Common Market on my way home. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing that could make this drink better would be availability at more local stores!