Ginger Beer vs. Ginger Ale: A Comparative Guide

Ginger beer and ginger ale, though similar in appearance and flavor, are distinct beverages with unique histories, production methods, and taste Ginger beer vs ginger ale profiles. This article delves into the differences and similarities between these two popular ginger-flavored drinks.

Origins and History

Ginger Beer: Ginger beer has its roots in the 18th century in England, where it was originally brewed as an alcoholic beverage. Traditional ginger beer was made by fermenting ginger, sugar, and water with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). This fermentation process produced a drink with a low alcohol content, typically around 2-3%.

Ginger Ale: Ginger ale, on the other hand, was developed later in the 19th century. It was first created by Dr. Thomas Cantrell, an American apothecary, and was popularized by Canadian John McLaughlin, who created Canada Dry in 1904. Unlike ginger beer, ginger ale is a non-alcoholic soft drink that is carbonated with added ginger flavoring.

Production Process

Ginger Beer: Traditional ginger beer is brewed through fermentation, which gives it a richer, more complex flavor and a slightly cloudy appearance. Modern commercial ginger beer may still use fermentation but often includes added carbonation to ensure consistency and shelf stability. Some brands also add ginger extract or flavoring to intensify the ginger taste.

Ginger Ale: Ginger ale is made by carbonating water and then adding a ginger-flavored syrup. This process does not involve fermentation, resulting in a clearer, lighter beverage with a more straightforward ginger flavor. Ginger ale can be divided into two main types: golden ginger ale, which has a stronger ginger flavor and a darker color, and dry ginger ale, which is milder and lighter in color.

Flavor Profile

Ginger Beer: The fermentation process gives ginger beer a robust, spicy, and slightly tangy flavor with a noticeable ginger kick. It often has a thicker mouthfeel and a more pronounced ginger aroma. The complexity of its taste makes it a popular choice for cocktails like the Moscow Mule and the Dark ‘n’ Stormy.

Ginger Ale: Ginger ale is known for its crisp, clean taste with a milder ginger flavor compared to ginger beer. It is sweeter and less spicy, making it a refreshing standalone beverage. Due to its mildness, ginger ale is often used as a mixer in cocktails and is also a popular remedy for nausea and upset stomachs.

Alcohol Content

Ginger Beer: While traditional ginger beer was slightly alcoholic, most modern commercial ginger beers are non-alcoholic. However, some craft breweries still produce alcoholic versions with varying alcohol content.

Ginger Ale: Ginger ale is always non-alcoholic, making it a suitable beverage for all ages and occasions.

Uses in Cocktails

Ginger Beer: Its bold flavor makes ginger beer a key ingredient in several classic cocktails. The Moscow Mule, made with vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer, and the Dark ‘n’ Stormy, featuring dark rum and ginger beer, are prime examples of how its robust taste can enhance a drink.

Ginger Ale: Ginger ale’s versatility and mild flavor make it a popular mixer in many cocktails. It pairs well with whiskey in a Whiskey Ginger, and its lightness complements other spirits without overpowering them.

Health Benefits

Both ginger beer and ginger ale can offer some health benefits, primarily due to the presence of ginger. Ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory and digestive properties. However, it’s important to note that the health benefits can vary significantly depending on the production process and the amount of real ginger used in each beverage.


In summary, while ginger beer and ginger ale share a common ingredient and a similar appearance, their differences in production, flavor, and use are significant. Ginger beer, with its rich, spicy, and complex flavor, offers a robust ginger experience, often used in cocktails and enjoyed for its bold taste. Ginger ale, on the other hand, provides a milder, sweeter, and more refreshing option, suitable for casual drinking and mixing in a variety of cocktails. Whether you prefer the punch of ginger beer or the subtlety of ginger ale, both beverages have carved out their unique places in the world of ginger-flavored drinks.