I love banana pancakes. I love to cook them (of course I have a secret recipe). I love to eat them. I love to make them for other people. I love to make Nutella sandwiches out of them. I even love the Jack Johnson song. It’s only natural that I’ve harbored the desire to brew a banana pancakes beer. How would you do it? Should it be a dessert beer? Should it be a regular beer that we add a bunch of adjuncts to? Do we use fresh fruit and smash bananas in the mash? Should we use artificial banana aromatics? Why can’t I divide by zero? Why don’t authors of time travel books ever account for the fact that the Earth would never be in the same exact position relative to the universe, and if the characters time-traveled in the same “spot”, they would end up in the vacuum of space or in the middle of a star, etc? What the heck is stuck in my teeth? These are just a few of the preponderances flitting through my bird brain during a problem solving session.
Step one was pondering what flavors I dig in banana pancakes, because they don’t taste like a fresh banana. The bananas have been combined with other delicious ingredients and caramelized in the pan. Then there are the flavors of the batter. Last I need to consider the toppings and the overall experience, which can also be affected by mood and circumstance. The result is…..what the heck am I talking about and how are we going to pull this off?
The first focus is on natural abilities and attributes of the items on hand- it’s best to just make good choices about materials and do your best to get out of the way. The batter is the easiest part, especially being a brewer that loves to focus on malt profiles. The bready and caramel tones come from the blend of malts used. To make the beer special and to get some suggestion of syrup we used Belgian Candi sugar to up the alcohol to the point of getting sweetness from the alcohol. For the banana we took advantage of a natural ability of the yeast. The Bavarian Hefeweizen strain we used is known to give off copious amounts of banana esters under certain fermentation parameters, so we provided those conditions and the yeast did not disappoint. Finally, we thought of what toppings would be great on a stack of B-Cakes and then divined that passion fruit would give us that experience while playing nicely with the other beer flavors that would be present.
The challenge with pursuing projects like these is when folks get too literal when they see words like banana in the title and expect that direct flavor to be isolated, up front, and in charge. I usually prefer to go for a bigger idea that is more of a comprehensive experience. The aim of this beer is to exist as subjective commentary on the topic of a finished stack of banana pancakes covered in delicious toppings. There is definitely “banana” in there, but this brew may be best enjoyed when open to a larger concept. I feel we pulled it off and spun solid gold- eat your heart out Rumpelstiltskin.