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Ginger beer is an interesting drink, with a lot of history behind it. It is one of the most variable sodas out there; I could say ginger beer to someone and they could imagine any of about 3 different flavors. It’s also an incredibly popular mixer, being the primary component in a number of fun alcoholic beverages, including the classic Dark ‘n’ Stormy and the perhaps even more iconic Moscow Mule.
But what makes a good ginger beer? Well, as we’re about to go over, it’s quite a few factors.
Here are the best ginger beer you can buy:
For the complete product list, please continue reading...
7 Best Ginger Beer (2020 Reviews)
1. Best Overall - Barritt’s Original Ginger Beer
Barritt’s is the ginger beer brand you’re probably most familiar with. It’s pretty much the most famous around, and for good reason. It has an excellent pedigree and a very accessible flavor.
The ginger in this is stronger than a ginger ale, but not overwhelmingly so. It still has a nice sweet finish that makes it perfect as just a surprisingly refreshing soda to drink that goes down easy.
However, it’s also quite famous as a mixer, being one half of the original Dark ‘n’ Stormy cocktail; a mixture that was originally specifically Goslings Dark Seal Rum and Barritt’s Original Ginger Beer as its “sanctioned” components.
This is one of the best around for both methods of drinking, and while non-alcoholic itself, pairs well with pretty much anything you’d care to mention. Vodka and all types of rum especially, though you’re likely to get more oomph out of a darker rum.
The pricing on this is pretty middle of the road for ginger beer, which tends to be a bit more expensive than most sodas since it’s typically imported from Bermuda or Jamaica (Bermuda in this case). It’s well worth picking up due to its versatile fairly light taste and wide availability. You can get this from pretty much any liquor store on the planet, and many grocery stores as well.
Light, refreshing taste
Perfect as both a soda and a mixer
Good package size
Lacks a lot of the harsh ginger flavor some might expect from small batch brewed ginger beer.
2. Runner Up - Goslings Ginger Beer
This has a pretty much identical flavor profile to Barritt’s ginger beer, though perhaps exists slightly more on the sweeter side of the spectrum. That makes a lot of sense, and the Goslings name might ring a bit of a bell if you’re paying attention: Goslings Dark Seal Rum is the other half of the “official” Dark ‘n’ Stormy cocktail.
The rum is the same, but the modern version of the cocktail is officially supposed to be made with Goslings ginger beer these days, as the Barritt’s partnership fell through for whatever reason a while back.
That means this shares pretty much the same estimation as Barritt’s: it’s great to drink on its own as a soda, and likewise makes an excellent mixer, specifically designed to match and complement the flavor profile of Goslings rum.
As opposed to Barritt’s it’s also quite a bit cheaper…sometimes. The pricing tends to fluctuate a bit.
Refreshing, sweet flavor profile
Designed to perfectly mix with Goslings Dark Seal Rum for an official Dark ‘n’ Stormy cocktail
Good when enjoyed as a soda or a mixer
Great price, most of the time.
Price can fluctuate a lot
Like Barritt’s, lacks a harsh ginger flavor
A rare ginger beer not sourced out of the Caribbean, this one comes to us from Australia, and has a wildly different flavor profile from the last two.
This one still has real ginger floating in it, which as you might imagine gives it a much stronger ginger flavor. Still, not too much. It’s far from what I’d call a “subtle” or “light” soda; the ginger kicks you right in the teeth on the first sip, but in a good way. It has just the right amount of sugar to cut that harshness down quite a bit, leaving you with a ginger beer that tastes very natural without the harsh burning of your sinuses that some craft brewed ginger beer has.
In essence it keeps that same craft brewed quality (natural ingredient brewed for up to 4 days) but produces a flavor that’s difficult to describe but must be experienced.
As a pure ginger beer, this one is my absolute favorite; unfortunately as a mixer I’d say it leaves much to be desired. You WANT a mixer to be a little more polarized one way or the other; either subtly ginger so the alcohol’s flavor comes through but is cut by the sweetness, or massively gingery so the ginger is cut by the alcohol, and produces something closer in flavor to what this ends up being on its own.
This tastes a bit funny when mixed with stuff, so I’d say stick with it as an excellent example of its kind instead of diluting it with other liquids.
Top notch flavor; essentially the perfect ginger beer
Natural ingredients and thorough brewing process
Bottles are comfortable in the hand despite their odd appearance
Real pieces of ginger still floating around in it
Falls a bit flat as a mixer; has too distinct of a flavor to truly mesh well with other flavors.
This has the flavor I associated with ginger beer for the longest time, being exceptionally spicy and sinus searing.
Quite honestly, I can’t say I’m a fan, but this one has its fan and I’d be doing it a disservice to leave it off the list. It’s highly popular (especially in the UK) for a reason, and if you’re a fan of that extremely harsh, searing ginger flavor, this is one of the few on the market that’s for you, without delving into the realm of small batch sodas with limited availability.
Jamaican ginger has a distinctly different flavor from most other kinds that can’t be found anywhere else; Bermuda, Brazil, China, India, they all have their own flavors, but they’re all much more similar to each other than they are to this.
For that alone it deserves a spot on the list as being a unique experience, and making a very interesting mixer, providing the other end of that spectrum I mentioned above: a ginger flavor so strong it’s cut by the presence of alcohol instead of vice versa.
Exceptionally powerful fiery ginger flavor
Makes a great soda or a mixer
Very low price for the amount
Smaller than average cans are perfect for mixing in a normal sized glass
Strong Jamaican ginger may not be for everybody
As a soda, I think this one is a bit disappointing. It suggests it’s good to be used as both a “sophisticated” drink on its own and a mixer, but the tiny size of the bottle and relatively unimpressive flavor on its own really believe that.
But as a mixer, it’s exceptional. The blend of gingers used and relatively low sweetness complement the taste of alcohol well, especially rums and vodka. It toes the line between a ginger ale and ginger beer quite well, with what is a distinctly gingery flavor that due to the blend of relatively mild gingers is fairly absent from the foreground of the taste, mostly coming in on the back. That’s what makes it so good as a mixer, since it cuts the alcoholic tang with the sweetness inherent in a soda, but doesn’t lose any of that ginger taste, and leaves you with a nice pleasant ginger “glow” in your mouth after every sip.
Excellent as a mixer
High quality ingredients
Light flavor up front, great aftertaste
Reasonably priced for the quality
Is fairly meh as a soda; only really shines as a mixer
6. Q Mixers Ginger Beer Premium Cocktail Mixer
This is one of the few on the market that is made as a pure mixer, and it shows. This ginger beer is a completely different beast from the others on this list. It’s very fizzy, with extra carbonation meant to improve its life in the glass, staying carbonated for longer. As anyone who makes soda based cocktails knows, this is a great feature in a mixer, as the added ice and alcohol makes the soda instantly taste flatter than it did before. This can be cut a bit by using cooling stones instead of ice, but a combination of that and a fizzier mixer like this makes for the biggest improvement.
Drunk straight from the can, as you might expect, this ginger beer is downright unpleasant, being exceptionally dry. Combined with the ginger flavor it’s enough to make you want to strip your own taste buds off. This isn’t a knock against it, because it’s not marketed as a soda: it’s a pure mixer. I’ve just done the science so you don’t need to.
As a mixer it works well, being the perfect blend of gingery and sweet. My main complaint is the size of the cans, which are a bit small for my tastes. 12 fl. oz. is a bit too big, but 7.5 fl. oz. is a bit too small, at least for my size of glasses. Still, at the price and quality that’s a minor complaint.
High quality mixer
Good price for the amount
Good mix of fiery ginger flavor and sweetness to cut the alcohol burn
Cans are a bit too small
Availability is low; small batches and high demand means it sells out a lot.
Terrible as a soda
Goya foods are pretty much ubiquitous where I live, as well as a lot of other places throughout the US, and for good reason. They make solid products at what are usually reasonable prices, and bring a lot of Latin American flair that can otherwise be hard to find.
I like Goya’s other sodas better; the Guava and Champagne (especially) are some of my favorites out there, but their ginger beer is one of the better ones around. Another Jamaican jam, this time with a bit more friendliness to it. It has more of a fiery ginger kick than I usually like, but unlike Old Jamaica I find I can usually get through this if offered one.
The main issue is that it kind of straddles a weird middle ground I’m not sure anyone would want to directly seek out. It’s quite good in its own way, but if you like fiery Jamaican ginger, Old Jamaica is better at providing that experience, and if you don’t there are plenty of milder options out there.
As a pure soda I think it’s better than Old Jamaica’s offering, but I also find it to be a significantly worse mixer, so it’s up to you whether that’s worth the price of admission or not.
A good middle ground between harsher Jamaican ginger beers and sweeter ginger beers.
High availability across the US
Not great as a mixer
Middle ground quality may make it less desirable to people with strong preferences one way or the other.
Each of these ginger beers bring something unique to the table. While my preference trends toward a high ginger flavor, low ginger heat variant (so Barritt’s and Goslings ginger beer are my favorites), I’m aware that this isn’t a taste everyone shares. There should be something here for everyone, from fiery ginger enthusiasts, to people just looking for a quality mixer, to people who just want a refreshing, light soda.
They’re all roughly the same value, so it’s completely down to personal preference.
How Do I Choose a Good Ginger Beer?
The first thing you need to nail down is what does ginger beer mean to you? There are roughly 3 different kind of ginger beer:
The first is similar to a ginger ale. It’s a sweet soda made with ginger. The ginger beer varies from a ginger ale in that it’s far more gingery, you get a more of that ginger kick, especially on the back end. It’s often described as taking a refreshing sip, followed by a comfortable warmth spreading through your mouth, which is an apt description.
The second is Jamaican ginger beer. Jamaican ginger is distinctly spicy as compared to other ginger types from around the world, and results in a soda with an insane amount of punch behind it. The ginger flavor is up front, immediate, and lingering. It makes a great sinus cleanser and is a favorite of many around the world.
The third is a mixer. These are specifically made for making drinks out of, like the aforementioned Moscow Mule. These are drier and typically smaller, and not at all meant to be drunk on their own. Some still enjoy them that way, but it’s not to be expected by the makers. They also are typically more gingery than a soda, but often not nearly as much as a Jamaican ginger beer.
Once you’ve determined your type, the rest is fairly easy. Look for ginger beers made from natural ingredients; real ginger and similar components. Ginger pieces left floating in the mix are a good sign, but fairly rare among mass produced ginger beers.
Taking a gauge of the versatility, if you want it, is also a good idea. Do you want it solely as a mixer, a soda, or both? Some ginger beers make excellent sodas but terrible mixes, as one in particular on this list exemplifies; you want a ginger beer with a less distinct flavor, that leans heavily on either the ginger or sweetness if you’re going to dilute it with alcohol.
Otherwise, if there are too many unique flavors mixed in, it might throw off the flavor profile you’re going for. It’s similar to choosing a cola for a mixer. I find mass produced colas to be better for mixing than spicier, handcrafted sodas, which I’d prefer to just drink on their own. So in a way, certain levels of quality can be a detriment in a mixer.
As for price…ginger beer tends to cost much more than a regular pack of soda, because the ginger (or the soda itself) needs to be imported, so keep that in mind. $30 for a 12 pack isn’t unheard of.