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What Is Banana Beer?

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  • Written By: Kathy Dowling
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2016
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Banana beer is an orange-colored alcoholic beverage made from ripe bananas that are fermented. It is produced in different countries throughout Africa, including Kenya, where it is called Urwaga, and in Uganda, known as Lubisi. There are two types of banana beer produced — igisahira and igikashi. Both are sweet in flavor, however, igisahira is milder in taste compared with igikashi. The alcoholic beverage has about 4.8% alcohol content when measured alcohol by volume, and is most popular during rituals and times of celebration.

In order to make banana beer, ripe bananas are mashed and filtered to produce banana juice, which is diluted by one volume of water to every three volumes of juice. The mixture is then added to a leavening agent, which produces gas bubbles, and is left to ferment for one day. Alcoholic fermentation occurs when sugars such as glucose and fructose are changed into cellular energy, producing ethanol. The fermented liquid is then filtered, bottled, and stored away from direct sunlight in a cool location. When banana beer is stored in these conditions, it can last up to several days.

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Different leavening agents are used when making banana beer, including millet and sorghum. Both millet and sorghum are popular types of cereals, and are an important supply of food in many countries throughout Europe and Asia. It is also popular in Africa, and the country in which banana beer is produced often determines which leavening agent is used. For example, Urwaga produced in Kenya uses sorghum or millet, where as Lubisi made in Uganda uses only sorghum.

To ripen bananas quickly during the dry season so that they are ready for beer production, banana leaves are placed in a dug out hole in the ground, and unripe bananas are placed on top and then covered with more leaves. A fire is lit in a small ditch next to the hole, and the heat from this fire enters the hole containing the unripe bananas in a process that can last between four to six days. During the rainy season, however, a different process of placing bananas on a frame near a cooking fire is used to speed up the ripening process.

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Phaedrus
Post 2

@Ruggercat68, banana beer doesn't seem to have much of a shelf life, so someone would have to brew it, bottle it and sell it all in the same week or so. I don't believe it can be shipped safely from places like Uganda or Kenya to the United States, either. As tasty as banana beer sounds, I'm afraid it would only be something served on very special occasions, and only by local brewers.

Ruggercat68
Post 1

As inexpensive and abundant as bananas are in the United States, I'm surprised some small brewery hasn't started producing its own version of banana beer by now. I think a naturally sweet alcoholic beverage with the same potency as grain-based beer would do well in an era of microbreweries and craft beers.

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