One of our Historic Interpreters found this great recipe for Instantaneous Beer, first published in 1846! If you try this recipe, make sure your bottles have a tight fitting and secure lid as they will be subject to quite a bit of pressure.
INSTANTANEOUS BEER: Put to a pint and a half of water four tea-spoonsful of Ginger, a table-spoonful of lemon juice – sweeten it to the taste with syrup or white sugar, and turn it into a junk bottle. Have ready a cork to fit the bottle, a string or wire to tie it down, and a mallet to drive in the cork. Then put into the bottle a heaping tea-spoonful of the super-carbonate of soda, cork it immediately, tie it down, the shake the whole up well, cut the string, and the cork will fly out. Turn it out, and drink immediately. Kitchen Directory and American Housewife. New York: Mark H. Newman & Co., 1846.
As you may have noticed, this recipe does not include three of the four major ingredients of beer, barley, hops or yeast. That’s because this drink is trying to replicate Ginger Beer, a popular beverage. Ginger beers were made in a variety of strengths and some were non-alcoholic. They were usually bottled soon after brewing and included a substantial amount of sugar for the yeast to act on to create carbonated beverages. Ginger Beer is the precursor to our modern Gingerale soda drinks and the carbonation was a key factor. The super-carbonate of soda (what we call baking soda) in the instantaneous beer recipe would react with the lemon juice to create fizz, just like a vinegar and baking soda volcano!