My grandfather had a special room in his cellar for the various presses and casks he used to make his notoriously mouth-wrenching red wine.  I have friends whose microbrew apparatus takes up the entire spare bedroom of their house, like a permanently boozy-smelling houseguest.  Accordingly, I thought that fermenting was best left to the hardcore hobbyists-- too complicated a pursuit for the average partly-stocked kitchen.  Turns out, it's pretty simple. I recently made ginger ale with only items I had laying around my kitchen. 

I used this recipe, invented by Dr. David Fankhauser.  Here's a simplified version to cut and paste into your recipe file,  though I strongly recommend that you visit for a detailed, step-by-step treatment.  (His site also contains also awesome cheese recipes.  I'm dying to make yogurt at home now.)

You'll need:  1.5-2tbs ginger, 1c sugar, 1 lemon (optional!), 1/2 tsp regular ol' bread yeast.

  1. Put sugar and yeast in an empty 2L bottle (using a funnel, if you have the luxury).  Add the ginger, then lemon juice, then fill to the neck with water. Cap it.

  2. Leave in a warm place until the bottle feels pretty hard from the pressure-- should take 24-48 hours (or less!) but don't leave it out too long.  It'll explode.

  3. Refrigerate to slow/stop the fermentation, and enjoy!

Comic about making ginger beer/ ginger ale to illustrate fermentation.