Wells & Youngs are in the second division of brewers of PBAs alongside the likes of Badger and Shepherd Neame, but behind the market leaders Marston’s and Greene King. They also now own the Courage brands. They have a distinctive portfolio of beers including one or two that are a bit out of the ordinary. Interestingly, all their Young’s branded beers are bottle-conditioned.
The first one I sampled was one of their more unusual brews, Wells Banana Bread Beer, which weighs in at 5.2% ABV.
I’ve never really been a fan of beers brewed with fruit, and some British cask ales with strawberries and raspberries have been among the most unpleasant I have ever tasted. However, the distinctive taste of banana, which doesn’t really have any element of sweetness, seems to suit beer rather better.
It comes in clear glass in the distinctive W&Y bottle shape tapering slightly out to the shoulder. The colour is mid-brown, but a dark tan without any reddish hint. The picture makes it look paler than it actually is. The head is fairly small, but lingers down the glass; there’s a full mouthfeel and distinct although not excessive carbonation.
The beer itself is fairly dry, with an underlying maltiness and hops too, but not of the floral kind that might struggle with the banana. The banana flavour, while not overpowering, is very evident – this is much more than a beer with a “hint of banana”.
Overall a good, unusual but eminently drinkable beer which makes an interesting change from more mainstream brews. Obviously it won’t appeal to those who don’t like the taste of bananas, and probably best to have one while relaxing in front of the TV rather than something you would drink as a session beer. The fruitiness would also make it a refreshing summer beer.
I have enjoyed it as a cask beer in the past although it is not listed in the current Good Beer Guide – which also, interestingly, says that after taking on the Courage brands, Wells & Youngs’ total brewing volumes are now more than Greene King’s.