EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated with more information related to the ginger beer’s ingredients.
Ginger is a flowering plant from China. It is well-known for its medicinal benefits, established by science. It is a popular component of many beverages, including the cult favorite kombucha and the legendary ginger ale.
Ginger beer is a cousin of ginger ale, although it differs in a couple of respects. One, ginger beer is brewed, whereas ginger ale is a carbonated ginger beverage. Two, ginger beer can contain alcohol, where ginger ale does not.
In other words, ginger beer is a kind of beer, while ginger ale is a kind of soda. Both are carbonated and both have ginger, but the differences in preparation lead to different beverages.
Aldi sells a ginger beer. Sort of.
Summit Sparkling Ginger Beer is sold at Aldi for $2.99 for a pack of four 12-ounce bottles. It’s a Seasonal Favorite, meaning it’s available in stores for extended periods through select seasons. (In our area it is in stores around the Christmas holiday.) We typically find it nestled among the other carbonated beverages in the store, such as the sodas. It’s stored at room temperature in-store, but you’ll want to refrigerate it before consuming.
This brew is, as the bottle and packaging clearly note, a non-alcoholic concoction.
To crack it open, you’ll need a bottle opener.
If you’ve never had ginger beer before, you may be wondering how it tastes compared to ginger ale. The answer is that it’s significantly different.
For one, the ginger flavor is a lot stronger. A lot. Where ginger ale has more a subtle, sweet ginger flavor, the ginger flavor in ginger beer is sharp and prominent. For the ginger ale fan who has never had ginger beer, it’s a definite adjustment.
Two, the ginger beer has more of a burn going down. I thought the burn got stronger as I drank more, but suffice to say that it does more to the throat. If you like some burn in your drink you’ll like this; if you prefer something mild and smooth, this is not it.
Nutritionally, ginger beer is a typical carbonated beverage, with a high sugar content.
But what’s more notable is the ingredients list:
The ginger beer contains the likes of sugar, citric acid, food starch (modified), vegetable oil, and the ever-mysterious “natural flavors.” What isn’t listed is, well, ginger.
So, what’s the deal?
Apparently there are different kinds of products that fall under the umbrella of ginger beer, and in the non-alcoholic versions, ginger may not be a component. Coca-Cola, for example, makes a non-alcoholic ginger beer popular in east Africa called Stoney that, as best as we can tell, doesn’t contain any ginger.
In other words, some ginger beer is an authentic ginger beer, while other varieties are more of a ginger beer soft drink that adds flavors to imitate ginger beer. The Aldi version looks like it falls in that latter category. We’ll leave it to individual consumers to sort out how they feel about this.
Summit Ginger Beer is a fascinating drink, with a strong ginger flavor and no small amount of burn going down. If that’s your style, then you’ll want to give this a try. On the other hand, if you’re a ginger ale fan and you like a mild beverage, be aware that this isn’t ginger ale. It’s also worth noting that this beverage doesn’t appear to actually have ginger in it, so make of that what you will.