Omega yeast labs "Bananza Ale" review.
Time for another one, so let's get things rolling, but a review this time around. I received some yeast for review from Zack at Toronto Brewing Co., that as soon as I had it in hand, started to draw several ideas from my dark and demented mind. The yeast I'm speaking about is one of the new genetically altered yeasts from Omega yeast labs called Bananza. The Banaza Ale yeast, according to Omega, is a Hefeweizen yeast that has been genetically altered to be non-phenolic. By being non-phenolic as a Hefe strain, you eliminate all the clove and end up with heavy Banana or bubblegum esters. So I put it to the test the only way I know how... outside the box. First off, what is the Banaza Ale yeast, and how does it differ from a regular Hefeweizen yeast? Bananza Ale by Omega Yeast Labs is a genetically augmented Hefeweizen yeast that uses a technology called CRISPR (Short for, Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) to augment DNA strands in the yeasts DNA in hopes of catering to a specific and desired yeast profile, ie ester or phenol presentation for example. In short it uses science to remove certain attributes of a specific yeast to make another yeast that is genetically incapable of producing certain biological attributes that were once genetically written into the yeasts ancestral code. For the Bananza Yeast this relates to the deletion of code that creates phenolic spice in a Hefeweizen, leaving a yeast that in theory will produce only the esters desired from a Hefe yeast, and none of the spicy phenolics that are generally associated with the yeasts known flavour profile characteristics.
So How did I approach this test/review? Well, like the Beerstard I am, I did whatever I wanted, primarily so I could better represent the unforgiving homebrewers who just couldn't care less what's suggested by the manufacturers, because, don't tell me what to do. I must admit, often this resembles me and my nonconformist mentality, so to be fair, I took the initiative and blazed a trail that very few are likely to wander on! But, since I'm doing this to test this yeast, not use it in a beer that highlights only yeast characteristics, I'm going to give it a true test. I wanted people to pull this yeast out of the beer and not have to dive for it. I wanted to see how the yeast presents in a beer where stylistically it would be a secondary sensory consideration and see if the fruity banana, and bubblegum esters would overwhelm or compliment the beer. So, I decided to brew up my Sweet Belgian stout recipe, which is a fairly rich beer and very full flavoured, perfect for hiding a Heffe ester profile if it's not what's touted it's supposed to be. I also used a Hop by Hopsteiner called Sultana in a hop stand, which was a new hop to me, so why not throw it in the mix just to make things interesting. The hops flavour profile should compliment the beer with the style it's going in, bittering hops will always be Czech Saaz for me in this style. The recipe (posted below) is an adapted version of my sweet stout and my Belgian Dark Strong recipe. It represents a mix of the two styles and retains the high percentage of Crystal and Roasted malts present in both styles that make each of the styles unique. My standard mash schedule for a Belgian style beer is utilized and pH is tracked throughout the mash and boil process, as well as post fermentation.
Once cooled and transfered into the Grainfather Pro Conical the wort is brought to an even 18C. I then pitched the Bananza yeast at 18C and allowed it rise for 4 days to 24C, controlled by the fermenters onboard programming, allowing for good ester production and lower fusel production. The small yeast starter I made for this beer was able to kick off fermentation within a few hours and kept on clipping along until terminal gravity was reached on day 7. While fermenting the blowoff aroma was 100% ripe banana, or even marshmallow banana candies, to the point of where I thought I'd have a banana bomb when all was said and done. I would smell banana from my stairs to my basement and wonder where it was coming from, and realize it was from the beer. Once I was happy that the gravity wasn't going to drop any further I began to pre-crash the conical before I transferred the beer to a ball lock keg. I generally do this for 3-4 days at 4C (the limits of the Grainfather glycol chiller). I then transferred the beer to a keg and allowed it to carbonate to 2.25 Volumes of cO2 and kept it in my keggerator until it was time to bring it to the GTA Brews Homebrew Club meet. After conditioning for 2 weeks to let things meld together, I tried a sample or two and can provide my opinion on what I thought of the yeast in conjunction with the beer style I selected to use it in. So what are my opinions on the beer? I'm going to lay this out in a review-type layout which will be my base for any future reviews I do review on, or expect others to review;
Name of Beer: Sweet Emotion
Brewery: Bine Cone Brewing Company
Brew Style: Experimental Belgian Stout
I'll rate the following beer attributes based on a scale of one to five and leave a small note on your experiences.
1- Terrible 2- Poor 3- Okay 4- Good 5- Excellent
The Aroma surprised me a lot, It was obviously roasty, with caramel and toffee notes but it was very estery and had tonnes of dark stone fruit, mild pear, light apricot and a perfect balance of banana. What surprised me most, was although I had a lot of doubt that this beer would be balanced, and was expecting it to be a banana bomb, it was balanced nicely with the hops, roasted grains, and the residual sugars. Once again proving why you should never judge the beer on it's parts, but as a whole. There was zero indication of any sort of phenolics present and you'd expect that with a yeast that was genetically altered to present as such. I did not detect any off flavours.
Dark brown black with a nice deep tan head and a light mahogany rim around the top of the beer when held to the light.Thick full head that disipates slowly and leave lacing on the glass.
Rich, malty, smooth, and nicely hopped with hints of raisin, plum, dates and cocoa. Esters are most certainly not muted in the flavour of this beer, but actually compliment the beer quite nicely. With hints of Apricot, Banana/light bubblegum and no hint of the pheolics associated with a Heffewiezen yeast. Well balanced and quite nice when allowed to warm a little to open up.
Very smooth, lightly creamy with a full bodied and quite enjoyable mouthfeel.
Overall Impression: 4
Overall this was a good beer, not what I'd consider a great beer, but with some work it could easily sit at world-class in my opinion. The yeast worked it's magic, did't overwhelm in the ester department, but wasn't muted either, it provided a nice balance beween hops, the grain bill and what the combination of all parts contributed to the final beer. All in all a very enjoyable beer with many great attributes contributed by the yeast.
Would you recommend this beer?
As a beer that is certainly rough around the edges I would most definitely rebrew and drink this beer again. It could use a bit of adjustments but other than that it was a good first attempt and a great way to test and review the yeast. What better way to test a yeast that's touted as being all banana than in a beer that's not generally fermented with a Heffe yeast.
Any additional comments: If I were to do it different in the future and still use the Omega Bananza ale as my yeast, I would certainly use some Cabdi Sugar in the mix and possibly a bit less C120, I think the candi sugar would add an element to the beer I felt was lacking when a Belgian beer is concerned.
Thank you for rating this beer.
Your Welcome Mr. Beer Did Buddha sir.
What did the GTA Brews Club members say about this beer? Well to be entirely honest I forgot to bring my evaluation sheets with me, and only realized it when I got to Muddy York Brewing Co. . So What I'm going to say is take all my recollections with a grain of salt, as I'm recalling this from memory, and I'm an old Beerstard, so the old noggin isn't always the most reliable recollection device anymore. With that said I can say that the overwhelming consensus was a very positive one. There were many who could pull out the esters and knew it wasn't just a regular yeast used to brew the beer. There were actually a few people who knew exactly what yeast was used solely based on the Banana aroma and flavour but without the clove. There were a couple of fellow homebrewers who could actually pull a lot more esters out of this beer than I was able to. Most felt the body was good, overall balance was good, and there weren't any overly obvious off flavours. Most agreed the yeast wasn't the star and that it presented itself well, especially considering the style it was used in. If I didn't have to bring neighbors some after the club meet I'm sure a few club members would have loved to have taken this keg home.
Conclusion; So was I impressed with the Bananza Ale yeast? Was this yeast all it was hyped up to be? Did it perform as expected? Do you feel there is a place for DNA augmented yeasts in the beer industry? Do I feel there's a need for me to brew a Hefe to find out what this beer can do to a clean profile? A solid yes to all those questions and a firm maybe for the last question, but that's something we'll find out on another brew day.
Here's to Cheers and Beers with lots of Suds with Buds.
If you'd like to purchase this yeast for your own experiment you can find it at www.torontobrewing.ca