Thursday, April 22, 2010

My good friend Greg is an enabler; every time he goes on a trip, he returns with several beers for me to try that neither of us have heard of. Some are horrendous (more on that in a future post; "Beers I Have Endured" is a feature I may bring to the blog), most are great and some are simply amazing. Greg is my favorite enabler.

While at his house last night, Greg presented me with a beer that could have been worrisome were it not for the fact that I'll try anything: the UK's Wells Brewery Banana Bread Ale.
(yes, that's the bottle for the pic on a table that includes my own tabletop gaming passion, Warmachine...not all dorks drink Mountain Dew all night; some of us drink beer)

My brain screamed out in terror: another fruit beer! Say it ain't so! From Cerise to Apricot Ale, fruit beers, with a few exceptions, tend to resemble alco-pops and wine spritzers more than fine balances between fruit and beer (Dogfish Head's Aprihop, Magic Hat's #9 and Unibroue's Ephemere are some of my favorite exceptions to that rule; Pyramid's Aprihop, Hilton Head's Blueberry Wheat and AB's Wild Blue Blueberry Lager are the worst adherents). But being of warped mind and tolerant body, I decided to dive in and give it a shot.

I am glad I did.

Wells offering pours like a loaf of homemade banana bread; golden brown, capped in a creamy fluff. Carbonation like the flecks of banana throughout. Lacing down the sides of the glass like the bits of sticky sweetness that hangs on to the pan. Looked tantalizing enough, and thankfully, none of that electric purple color you get in other fruit beers. Subtle like a Brit, this beer.

Blindfold me and I would swear this was a slice of banana bread. Banana taffy, sticky sweet, reaches out of the glass first. The beer bottle claims that organic bananas are used in every batch and I don't doubt it. Right behind that is caramel-toffee from lovely malts and even a walnut aroma from the interplay between malt and yeast. Not much in the way of beery aromas; the bananas dominate. But traditional British-style bready aromas work wonderfully with the bananas to fool any nose into convincing its accompanying palate into expecting bread instead of beer.

And fooled my palate was. Big bold banana taste, slight caramel, roasted nuts and toffee fill out the flavors in this beer. The banana is the star without a doubt. Maybe it's that bananas are more subtle and less powerfully-sweet (like berries or cherries can be), but I found that is wasn't overpowering. Like the aroma, my tongue swore (as it too often does) that this wasn't a beer at all.

My only criticism of this beer is that it is a bit of a one-trick pony; it's all banana bread and very little beer. It lacks the complexity of a truly world-class fruit beer. As a novelty, though, it's really well-done and I'd drink more than one on a night; it's not every day you drink a beer that makes you swear it's something else. If you don't like bananas or banana bread, I sure hoped you stopped reading at the title of the post! But if you want to try a nicely done, unique beer, give Banana Bread Ale a shot. What it lacks in intricacy it makes up for in tastes we all love from grandma's kitchen. In Yorkshire.


Bob 8:22 AM  

I read the whole post with an open mind even though I don't like bananas much.

Frankly, when I read the title, my stomach turned. Gag.

Smitty 8:24 AM  

As to the title, it's all my brain could think of to call this post. So since "I'm Your Venus" is now stuck in my head, I am working to assure it's stuck in yours as well.

steves 4:55 PM  

I hate bananas and Bananarama (which I always referred to as Ram-a-banana), but I love the picture.

Sopor 2:38 AM  

So.... is this like a toasty, nutty, bready malty brew done with Weizen yeast? Or possibly even Nottingham at high temps?*

Or is it "Banana Flavored"?

*I accidentally made a Banana Stout once with Nottingham yeast Fermented close to or above 80F. That was not good.

Streak 10:18 AM  

I love bananas, but have to say that I am not terribly interested in trying this beer. Sounds interesting, but then again, so are beers made with hot chili peppers. Not exactly reinheitsgebot-compliant, is it? :)

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