Bananas are pretty good. I'm not sure if Deadspin has ever issued a ranking of the fruits (editor's note: duh), but they probably have, and it was probably wrong, because everyone always underestimates kiwis and pretends to be too cool for apples. But if I were ever consulted on such a project, I'd put bananas firmly in the middle. The thing that prevents them from joining grapes and cherries and nectarines at the top is that I've never had a really excellent banana.
They're all kinda the same, because just about every banana you come across these days is of the boring Cavendish variety. You know how we're always taunted with the claim that the pork we have today isn't real pork, it's just factory-farmed bullshit that only has a fraction of the flavor enjoyed by previous generations of pig-eaters? Same deal with bananas. There are more than 1,000 varieties of wild banana, but the tropical fruit cabalists long ago decided that it made the most business sense to go monocultural. (This could backfire; there are predictions of an impending banangeddon due in part to the lack of diversification.)
We've been hitting the flavored beers hard lately on Drunkspin, and we've finally reached the only logical conclusion to that weird road. Awhile back, Deadspin's own Barry Petchesky outed himself as the staff's resident beer deviant by expressing fondness for Wells Banana Bread beer. I was supportive of his choice at the time, because he seems like a reasonable man, and one of Drunkspin's foundational principles is that we try not to judge a body by his beer choice. Plus I like some strange stuff myself. I'd never had the banana beer in question, so I wasn't qualified to have an opinion any stronger than, "Sounds like the bad kind of crazy, but who knows?"
When I thought through it a bit more, though, it started to make some sense. A lot of my favorite beers have banana-like traits derived from the yeast used to brew certain styles. The "bread" part threw me off at first, because it sounds gimmicky, but then I remembered that bread is made with wheat, as are some beers, including many of the ones that use the special banana yeast. Fuck it, let's drink some banana bread beer!
It pours a nice, dark amber, and the carbonation's a bit on the light side. The aroma isn't as aggressive as it could be, but it's still plenty darn banana-y, and not in the worst possible fake way: It's brewed with real bananas, but ominous-sounding "banana flavor" is added after the fact, which means that the banana element tastes appropriately half-real. It's not like eating a piece of fruit, but it's also not like eating the long, yellow Runt. There's a slightly sour citrus edge to the strong banana sensation, and pleasant bits of dark caramel and wheat manage to peek through here and there, adding an unexpected depth and keeping this 5.2-percent-alcohol-by-volume British beer from becoming a self-parody. Hints of lemon and pepper toughen up the finish, too.
Wells Banana Bread is certainly a novelty brew, and I can't imagine what kind of pervert would drink more than two in the same week, but it's absolutely worth a go once before the potential banana blight takes it off the market.
This is Drunkspin Daily, the Concourse's adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We'll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
The Concourse is Deadspin's home for culture/food/whatever coverage. Follow us on Twitter.