I’ve passed by this bottle many times at the grocery store, rarely giving it a second look. I like my beer money to be well spent and usually make a beeline to the many offerings from trusted breweries I admire. However, recently I have been exposed to many beers that used banana bread flavor to great effect. For this reason, I decided to give Banana Bread Beer by Wells & Young’s Brewing Co. a fair chance.
The pour itself is almost inviting. The color is deep red, but ultra clear, at first glance appearing to be an amber of some kind. Loose bubbles create a thin head that dissipates quickly, leaving no lace.
The nose is as to be expected, a banana-breaded assault on the nasal cavity. After several tries there is perhaps the slightest hint of chocolate. Of course, I expected this. It is in fact Banana Bread Beer, but this is the point where I furrow my brow and look over the glass with some concern. I was hoping for a skilled brew that manipulated its ingredients into hinting at the flavor, but I fear I have purchased one of those novelty beers that nukes the palate with an overwhelming amount of artificial taste.
Well, I paid for this beer, so here goes nothing. The taste, as expected, is where the real trouble begins. One sip tells me my suspicions were correct. The mouthfeel is like water, lacking the appropriate carbonation. The so-called “silky richness” claimed on the label is beyond exaggeration. With an ABV of only 5.2%, it presents as more of a banana bread soda than anything else.
The Wells website claims “Tempting banoffee aromas tempered by a grassy, lemony nose all leading to a finely balanced, fresh, delicate flavour of peppery hops with a lingering dry finish.”
I have a one word response. NO. As in no lemon, and certainly no presence of hops in any form. My bottle is well within its August 2013 expiration date, so I have to assume that the beer I am getting is in fact what they are referring to.
My taste buds are bombarded with that overdone banana bread flavor, but then something truly repugnant happens. As the beer warms in the glass and with each passing sip, the flavor and the nose is changing. It is possible that my senses are just burnt out from the banana, but everything has taken on the characteristics of pink sugar-free gum. The cheap kind that people buy when they are trying to quit smoking. Once I realize that is exactly the flavor, it is all I can taste. The more I drink, the less I like it. The experience has become downright unpleasant. With a low score of 79 on Beer Advocate and an abysmal score of only 43 on Rate Beer,it is clear I am not the only one to be put off by this weird concoction. Still, I finish the beer, hoping it will mutate once more revealing its brighter side, but much like a real banana it only decays with time.
My conclusion is that this is a novelty beer and, in my experience, anything labeled “novelty” is of poor quality. I have had many great beers that hinted at banana or banana bread to great effect, but here it is all marketing and no substance. When brewer’s take risks and go out on a limb and fail it is admirable, so long as they really tried to deliver something different that has character. In the case of Wells & Young’s Banana Bread Beer, it feels too thrown together. If you want to try a banana beer the way it ought to be, get to a bar that serves Kinetic Brewing’s Paradox. Though you will see this beer tempting you from the refrigerator of every beer retailer in town, I advise you to leave this one on the shelf.
I hate this beer.