In Fermenting Revolution, I posed a challenge to brewers: make a beer with fair trade ingredients. Today there are a few such beers being made in the U.K. In fact, one of them, Banana Bread Beer from the Wells and Young’s Brewing in Bedford, England has been being brewed since at least 2002.
This is a standard English bitter gone fruity with a pronounced banana twist. The neck label asserts the brew is made with “our own natural mineral water and fairtrade bananas.” And boy do the bananas come out swinging. As soon as I popped the cap I could smell bananas.
Now, having attempted banana brews myself, I know that bananas do not produce a taste or smell of bananas in finished beer. So it was unsurprising to read on the front label this more detailed description: “Malt beverage brewed with bananas and banana flavor added.” In other words, there are bananas in there but all they provide is some additional fermentable sugar, the banana taste and aroma come from chemical flavoring.
It is a powerful candy-like banana aroma and flavor that doesn’t have much body, just chemical punch. Otherwise, this is a middle of the road bitter, somewhat overcarbonated, and rather thin. After about half a pint, I was ready for something else. I think it would benefit from a better malt backbone. Maybe they could try using hefeweizen as the base style. This way the yeast could provide a natural banana aroma and flavor and they could axe the chemical flavoring.
Thumbs up for going the fair trade route, but I won’t be going back for seconds of this one.