Does Ginger Beer Have Alcohol? Dietitians Explain

Chances are you're familiar with ginger ale, a soft drink that's a popular remedy for an upset stomach. But you may not know as much about ginger beer, including whether it's an alcoholic beverage or it takes after the familiar soda.

Just as the "ale" in ginger ale can be somewhat misleading, ginger beer isn't beer in the common sense of the word. "Despite its name, traditional ginger beer is not alcoholic," says registered dietitian Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LDN. "It gets its name from the fermentation process used in its production, which is similar to the brewing process for beer."

More specifically, ginger beer is made by fermenting together water, ginger, sugar, and yeast, according to Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and board-certified sports dietitian. The process incorporates real ginger, whereas ginger ale typically has ginger flavoring, she notes.

Similarly to kombucha, the fermentation process that leads to ginger beer may leave behind small amounts of alcohol in the finished product. However, the amount of alcohol is not enough for ginger beer to be considered an alcoholic beverage. To give you an idea, regular beer contains around five percent alcohol, but ginger beer brands Bundaberg and Gingerbug state that their ginger beers are less than 0.5 percent alcohol. Another ginger beer brand, Reed's, states that its products don't contain any alcohol at all.

Caveat: some brands do offer alcoholic ginger beer. For instance, Crabbie's Original Ginger Beer is four percent alcohol, putting its alcohol content closer to that of regular beer. You can expect these drinks to be clearly labeled as "alcoholic ginger beer" or "hard ginger beer," given that nonalcoholic ginger beer has become the norm.

What regular ginger beer lacks in alcohol, it makes up for in taste. "Ginger beer offers a complex, robust flavor that is both refreshing and invigorating," Manaker says. "Its primary taste is a fiery, pungent spice, which comes from the ginger root, balanced with a moderate sweetness. Some may liken the flavor to that of ginger ale, but ginger beer is often described as having a more intense, less sweet, and more 'gingery' flavor than its ale counterpart. The effervescence gives it a slightly sharp, crisp finish, making it a favorite in many refreshing mixed drinks."

Ginger beer is tasty on its own, though you should proceed with caution if you need to limit your sugar intake. "It contains ginger root, which is known for its potential health benefits, including aiding digestion, reducing nausea, and having anti-inflammatory properties," Manaker says. "However, commercially produced ginger beers often contain high levels of sugar, which can contribute to weight gain and other health problems if consumed excessively."

Ginger beer can also enhance mocktails. "My favorite mocktail is just three ingredients: ginger beer, pomegranate juice, and a squeeze of lime juice," Ehsani says. "If you want to cut down on the sugar, you can just have a splash of ginger beer, pomegranate juice, lime juice, and fill the rest of your mocktail glass with sparkling water and ice."

And when you're interested in having an alcoholic drink, you can make up for ginger beer's lack of alcohol by adding it to a cocktail. Ginger beer is a component in classic drinks like the Moscow mule and the dark and stormy.

To recap, ginger beer is similar to ginger ale, including the drink's lack of alcohol. The drink can add a spicy, fizzy element to mocktails and cocktails alike, or you can drink it straight up.