Recipe for Old Fashioned Gingerbeer Bug

homemade ginger beer bug recipe

Who remembers these? Blipping away merrily on the kitchen bench. Old fashioned ginger beer bugs are something many of us remember from our childhood. You can google any number of recipes for making ginger beer at home these days. Most of them seem to involve yeast and be ready to drink pretty much immediately but that is not the ginger beer I remember from my childhood.

Ginger beer as my folks used to make it involved a mysterious “bug” that sat on the kitchen bench and needed to be fed every day. It blipped away sending up little lava explosions of ginger every now and then that could entertain a bored child for quite some time. The liquid got drained off it once a week and mixed with sugar, water and lemon juice and then into glass bottles and capped with a cruel looking clampy thing that secured beer bottle tops to the glass bottles.

homemade ginger beer bug

The bottles went into wooden crates, then into a cool place under the house, through the trap-door in the wardrobe floor, in the bedroom that my sister and I shared. Dad would go and fish out a few bottles as required and it was the best ginger beer you ever tasted. Dry and spicy and the perfect drink to quench a summer thirst.

Except summer under the house wasn’t quite as cool as you’d think and one night the ginger beer went off like BOMBS, me and my sister were petrified and the remaining bottles were “gingerly” removed by Dad. And that was the end of my childhood memories of ginger beer. But then a few years ago – 8 to be precise – my sister and I decided to have a stall together to make use of the mass of lemons both of us had. Thinking about what to sell we hit upon the idea to sell the recipe and all the ingredients to make the lovely ginger beer of our childhood memories. And so the Old Fashioned Ginger Beer Bug Kit was born.

ginger beer bugs

We measured our ingredients, downsized the recipe to fit in a preserving jar and did some trial runs. The taste was a trip down memory lane and unsurprisingly the debut of this product at the Ngatimoti fair in early 2008 was a runaway success. Country Trading Co. was founded later the same year and the Old Fashioned Ginger Beer Bug was one of the founding products we sold.

The rest as they say is history and in the following eight years we sold literally thousands of these little jars of nostalgia. We sold that many of them that I often wondered if spice traders in NZ wondered why the demand for ground ginger suddenly spiked. But all good things come to an end and earlier this year we decided to retire the Ginger Beer Bug. We were finding it harder to get the old recycled glass jars the kit came in and even harder to get them delivered by the courier without breaking them.

But its been on my mind to liberate the recipe for everyone to enjoy for some time. We had a lot of joy from it and I hope you will too. So here it is folks – the Country Trading Co. Old Fashioned Ginger Beer Bug recipe.  Share it around, bottle it in plastic soft drink bottles – they are food safe and safer than glass – and store it somewhere cool :).

Click here for the short recipe and download the next one with step by step photos as well.

Click here for step by step recipe with photos.







  1. I to remember fondly my childhood days of homemade gingerbeer and the exploding bottles in the hot water cupboard .
    I have downloaded the step by step but I am confused at step #4 it says to follow the recipe but I can not find anywhere the actual recipe in particular the ground ginger part … Can you help ?

    Bless be

    1. I found it as the two download files had same name I was not aware I had it

  2. Thanks for sharing this recipe, I last time I tried to make some it was not a great flavour so I am keen to try it again. As I am the worlds worst at making things, can I just ask it is teaspoons in the recipe isn’t it?
    Thanks Debbie

    1. Yes Debbie it is – good luck 🙂

  3. On the short recipe you alternate sugar one day ginger and sugar the next. On the long recipe it says add sugar and ginger for 7 days? Which one do I follow.

    1. Hi Wendy, follow the short recipe.

  4. Hi, could you use grated fresh ginger instead of ground ginger, or would that be too strong? I’m keen to try this!

  5. Found this linked from Fermenting Freaks Forever NZ FB group. Love it, I prefer the real ginger way but your instructions are great. Thanks for sharing.
    Can I ask what the raisins are for?

    1. Hello Jeff, yes I like real ginger too but that wasn’t readily available or affordable when I was a kid – also the thick gingery sludge that forms using powdered ginger is all part of the magic I think. I used to watch it erupting away for hours when I was a kid. The raisins carry natural yeasts on their skins that I think helps to start the fermentation off.

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