Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Alcoholic Ginger Beer; Crabbies and Hoopers Fighting It Out in the Ring

To cocktail aficionados worldwide it's best known as the mixer for a Moscow Mule, to Britons it's a can of Old Jamaica from the corner shop and to bartenders (having been there myself) it's a drink only ever ordered by people of a certain age. 

Given that it's a year of weird and wonderful trends, I'd say if it's not already, ginger beer is going to be the new hot thing...so hot, it's spicy - okay, that'll probably be the ginger...

A simple recipe of ginger, sugar, water, lemon juice, some kind of fungal bacteria known as ginger beer plant (tempted yet?!) and pimped up with artifical sweetners, ginger beer is most commonly produced as a non-alcoholic carbonated drink. with It's typically served cold, with plenty of ice, on its own or as a mixer  Alcoholic, or brewed, ginger beer originated in the UK - no surprise given our tendency to spend all weekend down the pub watching footy in the winter, and in the beer garden in the summer.

The difference between the two? Those labelled 'alcoholic ginger beer' (posh 500mL glass bottle, fancy label, little letters 'Est' and a date sometime in the 1800's) are brewed traditionally whereas the more commercially processed ginger beers (2L plastic bottle, straight to the point label, found in the aisle with the home-brand lemonade) are simply carbonated with pressurized carbon dioxide.

My interest is in the latter, 'alcoholic ginger beer' and I've picked up two crowd-pleasing brands to face off...

*Pulls down microphone dangling on a long wire and adopts a ring announcer voice*

"In the blue corner, Crrrrrrrraaaaaabbies (that's Crabbie's) Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer established in 1801 and made to a unique recipe of fruits, spices and rrrrreeeeeal ginger! A spiffingly refreshing experience just for adults..." Classically British and perhaps known best for annoying overuse of the words 'spiffing', 'old chap' and 'I say' in their retro television advertisements, Crabbie's pride themselves on uniqueness and use of real ginger.

"And in the the red corner, Hoooooooooper's (that's Hooper's) Alcoholic Ginger Brew infused with spices and carrying hints of lemon, lime cinnamon and ginger. Best served over ice with friends..." Looking more serious, Hooper's adopts a more complex approach, with not just ginger, but cinnamon spice too. I've put them head to head, or should that be bottle neck to bottle neck...let's see how they stack up;

Crabbie's
Hooper's
Bottle
500ml traditional brown glass
500ml traditional brown glass
Label
Easy on the eye, Scottish thistle
Canny barrel shaped label, easy to read
ABV
4%
4%
Colour
Warm gold
Warm gold
Frothiness
4/5
2.5/5
Key flavours
Sweet fruits, subtle warming ginger
Lemon and lime, spicy ginger pang
Finish
Short and sweet
Lingering gingeryness


*Ding ding ding ding, round one*
Crabbie's sneaks in the first jab with a frothy start and a sweet punch to the lips and tongue. Hooper's starts a little flatter then crosses in with a tangy, acidic hit. Crabbie's returns with a pang of ginger, a follow through of sweet fruit flavour and a subtle warming spice. But Hooper's swings a right hook which packs a ginger punch, flavours on lemon and lime and a lingering gingery warmth.
If it's subtlely and a little sweetness your lusting after, go Crabbies, if it's punchy flavour and warming spice you're craving, go Hooper's. Me? I'm on team Hooper's.

Don't just take my word for it, you can pick up the Crabbie's Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer, 500mL for £1.795 and the Hooper's Alcoholic Ginger Brew 500mL for £2.00, both in-store or on-line at Tesco.


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