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The Difference Between Ginger Beer and Ginger Ale

There's more to these beverages than meets the eye
The Difference Between Ginger Beer and Ginger Ale
Photo: Michael Saechang via Flickr

If you had a stomach ache when you were younger, your mom or dad might have given you a glass of ginger ale to help settle it. The carbonated drink with a hint of ginger is light and refreshing—the perfect cure. Fast-forward a few years, and now you’re ordering a cocktail at a bar and see ginger beer listed as one of the ingredients. You’re probably too embarrassed to ask the bartender about the difference between beer and ale (until you’re a few drinks in), so allow us to explain.

Ginger beer is brewed and fermented, while ginger ale is carbonated water flavored with ginger.

The label “ginger beer” can be quite misleading , because most commercial ginger beers sold today contain no alcohol. However, to add to the confusion, ginger beer was once an alcoholic beverage made from fermenting ginger, water, a starter culture and sugar.

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Since ginger beer is a nonalcoholic soft drink, it can be enjoyed by itself, but most often it’s used for cocktails such as Moscow Mules. Ginger beer is also a little stronger than ginger ale with a subtle spicy finish.

Now that you’ve got the lowdown on the ginger ale vs. beer debate, you’ll always look like a pro at the bar, no questions asked. 

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