OMG! My beer tastes of bananas. But why?

beer tastes of banana · Tasting Experience

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Some things you experience can never be undone. This happened to me during my first ever beer tasting. So, after years of happily sipping beer without ever thinking much more than “I like the taste of that or not” and perhaps that tastes “strong”, I tried a beer tasting with a beer sommelier. I have to admit that I was a touch skeptical about how much I was going to learn from the experience. After all I’d drunk enough beer to sink a ship.

This said, we tried a normal IPA. We noted the hops and spoke about why the dutch added them to beer and a bit about how the Brits developed the Indian Pale Ale for their troops in India. At this stage my know-it-all skepticism continued to grow. However, up next came a witbier. The beer sommelier explained it meant white beer or wheat beer. Nothing new so far. Then he asked us what it tasted of. Baked bread, yeah sure, it is made of wheat after all. And then he said, but of course the most of prevalent taste is banana!!!!!

OMG!! It does taste of banana. How could I have never noticed it! And now I cannot untaste it but why?.

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon

Have you ever learned something new and then suddenly noticed it everywhere? Like seeing a new word or name pop up all over the place? Well, that’s what we call the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon or frequency illusion. It’s like your brain is on high alert for that new piece of info, so it’s more likely to process it and make it seem like it’s popping up all over the place. Don’t worry, it’s totally normal and harmless, and it can happen with all sorts of new information, not just beer aroma. So the next time it happens, just think of it as your brain doing a little extra work to help you remember that new thing you just learned. This is what beer tastings do, and tastings in general. They train our brain to recognise and differentiate tastes and build up a palate of tastes. But back to the bananas.

So why does Whitbier taste of bananas?

White beers, also known as witbiers or Belgian white beers, are a type of beer that are traditionally brewed with a wheat base and flavored with spices, such as coriander and orange peel. These spices can give the beer a fruity, citrusy flavor, which can be perceived as a banana-like flavor by some people. In addition, the yeast used to ferment witbiers can also contribute to the beer’s flavour profile, and certain strains of yeast can produce esters, which are chemical compounds that can give the beer a fruity aroma and taste. So, the combination of the wheat, spices and yeast used in witbiers can give the beer a banana-like flavour.

What’s an ester anyway?

Esters are a type of organic compound that can be found in many different substances, including beer. In beer brewing, esters are produced during fermentation when yeast converts sugars into alcohol. Esters are responsible for many of the fruity aromas and flavours in beer, such as banana, apple, pear, and others. They are formed by the reaction of an alcohol and an acid, both products of the yeast metabolism. Ester formation can be influenced by factors such as the type of yeast used, the fermentation temperature and the availability of oxygen. Some yeast strains will produce more esters than others, so the selection of yeast strain is important for the final aroma and flavour profile of the beer

So the next time you sit down to sup a glass of Witbier see if you can notice the banana flavour. But beware, you will never be able to go back to non-banana oblivion.

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