Before I explain the process for our last batch, I’m going to recap this year ACCE (Spanish Homebrewers Association) Congress held in Burgos in March 2017. First of all, I’d like to thank the people from the organization for a great work. It was my first time in such a congress and, once you’ve been there, you realize how much time and effort you must put in order to assure everything works as it is supposed to. And, although evidently you can always improve some things, I must say they did a great work.
About particular matters of this congress, the seminars I attended to on Friday and Saturday were for the most part quite interesting, including experiences, questions and tips from the audience. In the regular general assembly some promising ideas arose from various members. The presentation for next year beer style for the annual homebrew competition was flawless (we will see if we enter the competition). The bar, open only at nights, although somehow slow when rotating kegs on Friday, was at full speed on Saturday and a great number of beers kept coming out of kegs all night.
On a final note about the congress, I’d like to point out to the great atmosphere we could enjoy during all the weekend. An excellent place to meet new people even when you go by yourself, as it was my case. Conversations about homebrewing… with a homebrew in your hand, an incredible meeting that in 2018 will be hosted in Cadiz.
Let’s move out from the congress, time for our last experiment, a Blonde Ale with bananas, inspired after reading Homebrew All-Stars by Drew Beechum and Denny Conn. Various prominent homebrewers are featured in that book, sharing their reasons for brewing, their equipment, their favorite ingredients,… and then each one of them expands on a particular topic. In the case of Joe Formanek, homebrewer since 1987 and winner of various important awards, the topic he talks about is brewing with bananas. This chapter caught my eye, so we started planning a new recipe following his tips for brewing with this fruit.
In his own experience, Joe tell us that, although not too many people think about bananas when brewing, they can add flavor and body to the beer if used correctly. First thing to be taken into account is you must add a quite large amount of bananas, about 4.50 Kg (9.92 lbs) for 19 liters (5 gallons) of beer. He also recommends the bananas must be ripe, but not overripe. To calculate how much malt you should use for a particular recipe, he recommends take a particular recipe and take out an amount of base malt equivalent to half the weight of bananas added (unpeeled weight). So, if you are using 4.50 kg (9.92 lbs) of bananas, you should take out 2.25 Kg (4.96 lbs) of base malt to obtain a similar original gravity.
About the process, he suggests to make a double mash. On one side, after peeling and liquefying the bananas as much as possible, in one kettle you put the bananas with some amount of base malt (he recommends 900 g or 2 pounds for a 19 liters or 5-gallon batch). Depending on how thin the banana slurry is, some water may be added before adding base malt. This mash is held at 68.9ºC (156ºF) for one hour. In other kettle, you should perform a normal mash with the rest of the base malt and the specialty grains needed. After both mashes are completed with a mash out at 79.4ºC (175ºF), the “banana mash” is layered in top of the normal mash for lautering before going into the boil.
Based on all this information, our recipe for 5 liters (1.10 gallons) was the following:
Blonde Ale with bananas
0.60 Kg (1.32 lbs) Bohemian Pilsner (Floor malted) from Weyermann (4.0 EBC)
0.12 Kg (0.26 lbs) ligth wheat malt from Weyermann (3.0 EBC)
0.10 Kg (0.22 lbs) Carared from Weyermann (40 EBC)
3.00 g (0.11 oz) Chinook (13.00% AA) (boil for 60 minutes, 17.1 IBUs)
4.00 g (0.14 oz) de Spalt Select (4.60% AA) (boil for 10 minutes, 2.9 IBUs)
1.4 Kg (3.09 lbs) ripe bananas
Workhose (Mangrove Jack’s #M10)
OG: 1.056 FG: 1.006 ABV: 6.6% IBUs: 20.1 Color: 11.1 EBC BU/GU: 0.387 Efficiency: 65.00%
Mash 1: 1.4 Kg (3.09 lbs) of bananas with 0.30 Kg (0.66 lbs) of Bohemian Pilsner malt, adding 1 liter (0.22 gallons) of water, held at 60ºC-65ºC (140ºF-149ºF) for 1 hour.
Mash 2: 0.30 Kg (0.66 lbs) of Bohemian Pilsner malt, 0.12 Kg (0.26 lbs) of light wheat malt and 0.10 Kg (0.22 lbs) of Carared malt, with 4.84 liters (1.06 gallons) of water, held at 69ºC (156.2ºF) for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, both mashes are mixed and they are held at 63ºC-65ºC (145.4ºF-149ºF) for another half an hour, mashing out at 75ºC (167ºF).
So much for the theory. In practice, we performed the normal mash in an insulated igloo cooler as we usually do when brewing small batches and it went without trouble, adding 4.84 liters (1.06 gallons) as described in the above recipe, holding it at 68ºC-69ºC (154.4ºF-156.2ºF) for an hour. For the “banana mash”, we saw that after liquefying the bananas, the slurry was too gummy and, in fact, we would have to add some water. We added water slowly until we saw the consistency looked good. Approximatley, 1 liter (0.22 gallons) of water was added. We put half of the base malt in this mash and we tried to heat on a vitroceramic stove until it reached about 65ºC (149ºF)… which was somewhat difficult. The high viscosity of the mixture of banana puree, water and crushed malt, along with the difficult of applying heat in a precise manner made trying to maintain a mash temperature of about 60ºC-65ºC (140ºF-149ºF) quite an experience. We did our best, stirring frequently to even the temperature in the mixture.
After one hour, we opened the cooler, and we poured the mash with bananas onto the normal mash, leaving it for another 30 minutes at about 63ºC (145.4ºF). For the mash out, we added 1 liter (0.22 gallons) of almost boiling water to raise the temperature of the combined mash. After taking out the bag with the spent grains and rests of bananas we transfer the wort into the kettle. When we measured the pre-boil gravity we made an important mistake. We measured 1.035 as pre-boil gravity, and instead of comparing this value with the theoretical value for the pre-boil gravity (1.044, a higher gravity, probably due to the problems with the banana mash) we compared it with the theoretical original gravity value, 1.052. Since this was such a great difference in gravity, and in order to avoid our beer being too light we added some table sugar to the boil. Maybe if we would have paid more attention, this step would have been unnecessary. Anyway, things like this remind us we cannot get distracted and that planning in advance and taking notes while brewing is a good practice.
Once the boil was finished, we cooled the wort as fast as possible, which usually is not a problem when we brew a small volume like this, and then transfer the cooled wort to a 6.25 PET bottle to ferment. We had M10 yeast from Mangrove Jack’s in the fridge and, since it is described as an all-around clean yeast, we selected it to ferment this beer. Fermentation temperature was kept around 18ºC-19ºC (64.4ºF-66.2ºF). 24 hours from inoculation, there were clear signals of fermentation, good krausen included. As I said before, our idea was to ferment and bottle this beer for the ACCE congress. However, it took the beer more time that we expected to clear (maybe some components from the bananas had something to do with this), so we decided to wait. In the end, the beer was one month and a week in primary until it finally cleared, reaching a final gravity of 1.006, for 6.6% ABV (we could have definitely skipped adding sugar). We run out of beer filling the bottles, so we weren’t able to taste it before bottling, although we can say there was no banana in the aroma. In 2-3 weeks we’ll see how it turns out and if it is worth it to keep experimenting with bananas, we’ll let you know.
(UPDATE: You can check how this beer turned out here)
*This post was first published in Spanish on 13 March, 2017