This is part 2 of a 4 part interview with Chris Reed of Reed's Inc. Be sure to start reading with part 1. This section focuses on making ginger brew.
I found them in soft drink lists. They were just old books showing people how to come up with recipes for making flavors for soda. These were the early soda chemists that created the very early soft drinks. They were using more natural, more whole ingredients, because they hadn’t gotten so high-tech yet. It was a fluke that I came across a cookbook from 1785 to 1790. It just had root beer recipes and ginger ale recipes. I just went crazy.
Is the ginger brew recipe you use similar to one that was in that book?
Did you notice I call it on the label “all natural Jamaican style ginger ale” or “all natural Jamaican style ginger beer?” I would take my stuff to parties and people would say, “You know, man, the Jamaicans still do this - they’re brewing it fresh.” It’s like every British colony has these ginger beverages, and some of them are still pre-technology brewing these things.
That’s why on my label I give credit to the Caribbean. When I’m brewing up my ginger brews, I am not doing a dry ginger ale, like Canada. Dry is less sweet, less fruity. The dry ginger ales were not fruity and the golden ginger ales were more fruity.
If you look in Caribbean cookbooks, you’ll see recipes for putting up ginger fresh from real ginger and limes and pineapple and honey and cane sugar. I grabbed some Caribbean ingredients. I also grabbed some ingredients from British ginger ale from the 1900’s, and spices that were in those drinks. I kind of made an amalgam, but it’s more of a Caribbean or golden ginger ale than a dry Canadian style.
Did you have to do a lot of experimentation to get to the recipe that you use now?
A ton of it, and we continue to. Take the beer industry, there’s a brew. That thing has been studied by scientists for years and years. They know the brewing process for beer down to the molecule. What I’m doing has never been commercialized before. We are continually running into people in the industry who are saying, “I see you doing this. Have you ever thought of this?”
We actually are modifying our processes now. We are very excited because we are creating a quality level that we have never seen before. For the ginger freaks, you haven’t seen our best stuff yet. It’s coming out in the next two or three months. It will be very exciting!
Can you describe the process of making ginger brew?
We start with fresh ginger. We cut it and mince it and put it in big brew vats. We have some big food processing equipment. During the brew stages, we add spices and secret ingredients. Some of them are just chucked in and some of them are not in for long (like the beer industry does). Then, we add all of the fruit juices and sweeteners and age the product, the product goes through transformation and aging, and then we filter it and carbonate it.
How long does it age for?
About a week. The longer the better, but we are already so much radically different than anyone else in the market. So, we are doing better at it and there are some very fun things that are going to happen with our drinks.
Is there consistency between batches?
There are vintages – I am sensitive to them. My customers sometimes say, “Hey that was a good batch.” A few of them have learned how to read the codes so they can buy certain batches. Generally, it’s pretty consistent.