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An Open Letter to Crabbie's

Dear Crabbie's

Last year, after 39 years of singlehood, I married a lovely woman and we went on our honeymoon to Ireland, Scotland and England. There I had the great pleasure of tasting Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer. Just as the chalkboard inviting us in to the Phoenix Pub in London suggested, it was indeed tickety-boo on a hot day.

Whilst on our trip, I did my very best to enjoy Crabbie's wherever I could, an effort that lead to a sense of well-being and pleasure that has rarely been rivaled in my life. Of course, this isn't saying much, as on the whole my life has been one with only the modest pleasures that a middle-class upbringing can provide; nothing like the posh extravaganza that must be life at the Crabbie's corporate office.

My extensive research, which consists of googling a bit, and bitching to my friends, has informed me that Crabbie's is not available in the United States. This is a keen disappointment, somewhat akin to making a dear friend while on holiday and then never seeing them again. You know that warm glow of companionship when one meets a kindred spirit, the sudden delight in finding shared interests and that ineffable something that is sympatico? And then never again? It's not quite crushing...but it does add to the pile of rather dreary things that make one's life anything but tickety-boo.

In desperation, what I can not purchase here in Los Angeles, I am prepared to make myself. I have all the requisite equipment to brew some delicious ginger beer, but I simply don't have the recipe. I have done even more extensive research - which is to say, more googling, and being encouraged by my friends to shut up about Crabbie's and make them some. I have no recipe. I am bereft.

Dear people at Crabbie's, bringers-of-the-boo-which-is-tickety, I implore you - lend me your recipe. Or a reasonable facsimile thereof. I do have many friends, and they are all anxious to taste the things that I brew, much of which turns out fairly satisfactory. Imagine this as an opportunity to seed the States with a sort of 5th Column of Crabbie's partisans, ready to take to the hills and ...well, drink delicious things. And spread the word!

I would gladly be your ambassador to the States, or at least to Venice, California. Or at least to my block. Surely I would qualify for that. Will you help me out?

Yours etc;
Davy Krieger

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
yagathai
Apr. 18th, 2012 04:50 am (UTC)
If only you had a friend that was on his way to becoming a beer professional - wait, I'm on my way to becoming a beer professional! And as such, I can tell you a terrible secret

Crabbies isn't actually a beer, or a ginger beer, at all. It is a cider -- and what's more, it's a keeved, isinglass-fined and flash-pasteurized beverage with flavors and preservatives added. As such, replicating the Crabbies recipe at home... well, it wouldn't be impossible, but most people don't exactly have a flash-pasteurization rig at home, you know? And I don't know any homebrewers that use isinglass (aka fish bladders) in their process.

If you want to make something approximating it at home, here's what I would do: Source some scottish cider apples, or the closest varieties you can find in Cali-for-nye-eh. I haven't tasted the brew, but I would assume mostly sweets and sharps, maybe with some bittersweets for a nice tannic tang. Next, make an old-fashioned keeved cider out of them. Keeving is tricky and definitely an intermediate-to-advanced technique, what with all the maceration and defecation and so on, but you can buy the keeving enzyme and food-grade calcium chloride from http://www.cidersupply.com/, where you can also find simple instructions.

Ferment that bad boy until you hit 3-4% ABV. I would recommend against using an aggressive wine yeast for these purposes -- I'd not a cidermaking guy, but I'd recommend something like Wyeast 4184, which is a rich mead yeast, or a nice gentle wheat ale yeast like Wyeast 3068. Based on your apples, you may or may not need to add sugar to your pomace to get to that level. Personally I would use a dark natural sugar like turbinado or demerera -- but most people will tell you that's crazy, and to use white or corn sugar instead. A keeved cider should be a long, slow ferment, so you'll need patience.

Next, add your steeping spices. This is normally (I'm guessing) where the brew would be flash-pasteurized, though I can't be sure. See, the addition of the steeping spices to live yeast would give them the nutrients they need to continue eating away all your sugars, which would raise the ABV and make it dry, like a Normandy cidre brut. You want to stop the yeast. The easier way would be to rack it out, then chill it down so the yeast goes dormant and also slow or stop any other microfauna you may have inadvertently introduced. I'd say keep it at 4-5 C (40 F) to be safe.

Otherwise, you can try slow-pasteurizing it. Bring it up to... well, you'll really want to consult a pasteurization table for this, but I'd say about 73-74 C (165 F or so) for a good few minutes. Be careful not to let it get to 78 C, since that's the boiling point of alcohol. Then rack it out into sterile glass and let it steep for as long as you like, though the Crabbies mythology would have you believe 8 weeks. Of course, that's going to do terrible things to your carbonation, and while I've had some delicious Basque still ciders, I don't know if that's what you're going for.

As far as spices go, my best guess would be... seville orange, a big honking load of ginger and maybe a little thistle? I don't know for sure, man, but that sounds pretty tasty to me. Oh, and maybe some more sugar, depending again on the sweetness of your apples.
aghrivaine
Apr. 18th, 2012 04:45 pm (UTC)
What does a "beer professional" mean? Also, can you provide some citation for Crabbie's being a cider? I mean, it's marketed as a "ginger beer" not a "ginger cider" and I don't recall its ingredients have apples.

Not to seem argumentative - it just doesn't sound right to me.
yagathai
Apr. 18th, 2012 07:28 pm (UTC)
Hm. Well, it was past midnight when I started to look so all I did was ask my buddy Cameron via gchat, who's a British homebrewer and apiarist out in Wilkes-Barre. He`s the one that told me it was a keeved cider. After a cursory google, I see that ratebeer.com agrees with him, and that site is the second-most reliable beverage site online. Also, in Australia it`s beeing marketed as the "new cider".

None of this is conclusive, and it's entirely possible that Cameron and ratebeer are both wrong. In any case, it`s obvious that it`s not a true ginger beer (which is a different animal than a malted grain beer), since they steep the ginger to add the ginger flavor instead of fermenting the ginger using that weird ginger beer slime. I mean, I suppose it could just be an alcopop, like Mike's Hard Lemonade or Smirnoff Ice, in which case you're screwed. You can't make that kind of stuff at home.

If you think I'm wrong, which is a possibility, why not try a kit like Cooper's? http://www.makebeer.net/item.asp?idProduct=54&idCategory=104&idSubCategory=0

Alternatively, just look up some "true" ginger beer recipes, buy the yeast slime from a yeast supply company, and go to town.
yagathai
Apr. 18th, 2012 07:36 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the ratebeer guys seem pretty convinced that it's a fruit-based beverage with no fermentable grains and added flavorings, ie a cider. They're the kind of nerds I would trust, so I'm going to stand by my initial statement.
aghrivaine
Apr. 18th, 2012 08:23 pm (UTC)
I am puzzled, as I receive many answers, none of which accord with each other. I basically made some home-made non-alcoholic ginger beer, but it was cloudy and not terribly sweet, which was unlike Crabbie's. I really doubt that it's alcopop like Mike's, but I suppose it's possible.

I might try the Cooper's kit - what's the harm, really? If it's not right it's probably still drinkable. I'm just loathe to invest in the time-consuming process of a full 5 gallon batch with something that won't turn out right.

Could you like me to the ratebeer article you're looking at?
yagathai
Apr. 19th, 2012 02:55 am (UTC)
Explains why it's not a rateable beer and calls it a keeved cider with ginger added:

http://www.ratebeer.com/brewers/crabbies/12156/

Sseveral posts in the Sainsbury's thread, including one that indicates that they contacted the brewery and found out that it was gluten-free, which means it's not any kind of brewable grain:

http://www.ratebeer.com/forums/sainsburys-beer-festival_120767.htm

Again with the no grain thing:

http://www.ratebeer.com/forums/crabbies-ginger_151923.htm

This guy says it's a flavored fruit cider:

http://www.ratebeer.com/forums/drebus-relhoekje_177062.htm

thelastmehina
Apr. 18th, 2012 09:56 pm (UTC)
You could certainly do what Yags suggested! My guess (not having tasted Crabbie's myself) would be to make something like a white ale with either no hops or mild hops and add a bunch of ginger.
aghrivaine
Apr. 18th, 2012 10:09 pm (UTC)
I did find these threads when I was googling around. What I didn't find was anyone who said, "I have Crabbie's, and this recipe is like it." Many people have many ginger beer recipes (which is not beer with ginger, but rather, fermented ginger...) and I'm probably going to try one or two of those. But I was really looking to replicate the actual beverage that I had, because I enjoyed it, and because it was on a special trip.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 4th, 2012 11:29 pm (UTC)
It's now in California
I enjoyed Crabbie's at my local pub in San Francisco last week. Apparently they debuted it in North America in June. Now I'm trying to find a retail source.
(Anonymous)
Nov. 22nd, 2012 02:58 pm (UTC)
It's here!
Just had my first Crabbies in a bar in a suburb if Chicago, so if it hasn't already, it should be coming to LA soon!
(Anonymous)
Dec. 11th, 2012 10:48 pm (UTC)
Agreed!
I wish I wish Crabbie's would come to Los Angeles! Venice/Santa Monica in particular!
Ed Broughton
May. 18th, 2013 10:32 pm (UTC)
Its been here for years
Crabbies has been sold at my local booze shop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for at least 3 years now (maybe more).
It comes in a 4 pack of small bottles.

The distributor and their choices make all the difference.
Good luck.
Eid
lifeofreilly
Jun. 13th, 2013 11:05 pm (UTC)
Crabbies now available!
Crabbies is now available at BevMo!


You're welcome ;)
aghrivaine
Jun. 13th, 2013 11:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Crabbies now available!
Yes, thank you! This entry is dated, because I did actually order some from BevMo and anxiously await its delivery!
lifeofreilly
Jun. 13th, 2013 11:08 pm (UTC)
As in
As in, it arrived at my local BevMo (Northridge) yesterday. :)
aghrivaine
Jun. 13th, 2013 11:14 pm (UTC)
Re: As in
Ooo. I wonder if it's made it to the West Side yet!
I actually just had them deliver some to me so I'd be sure to get it.

BTW, since you're a Crabbie's fan, were you aware that there is also Crabbie's Ginger Wine? It's only in the UK so far, but my in-laws tell me it's great to mix with ice and whisky to make a "whisky mac."
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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