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Urwagwa is a popular beer in Rwanda made from bananas, and I'd like to brew some myself. The recipes and methods I've read online have some very traditional methods (e.g. Bury the bananas for a while!) and most recipes ask for Sorghum as a leavening agent.

I'd like to know if anyone has a substitute for the sorghum and also for the method (the ones I have read only require the brew to be fermented for 24 hours - could/should it be done for longer?)

Could I just follow some basic banana beer recipe - or will that just leave me with something nice, but not authentic?

Sorry if this is too specific, but I got a bit curious and wanted to make something exotic.

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A fairly popular substitute for sorghum is molasses. The main disadvantage is that the flavor isn't quite as good. Also I'd also be careful fermenting anything for only 24 hours. Bottle bombs away! –  Bad Neighbor Apr 18 '12 at 2:40
    
So you think sorghum would be hard to get a hold of? I read somewhere that it was available in the US, but I live in the UK anyway. –  Danger Fourpence Apr 18 '12 at 7:59
    
Sorghum is available in the US - it's mildly popular in the south. It's also gettable on Amazon. –  Ell Apr 18 '12 at 14:30
    
Additionally, if you are going to ferment for only 24 hours, the only way you'll prevent bottle bombs is to get it very very warm - 80+. That's probably still not going to enough to finish it, unless there's going to be very little sugar in those bananas. –  Ell Apr 18 '12 at 14:31
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From the Wikipedia article it seems that sorghum is added as flavoring agent, not as a fermentable. I think this because the sorghum is roasted and ground before the addition, but nothing is done to convert its starches to sugar. –  Tobias Patton Apr 18 '12 at 15:57
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1 Answer

Do you have access to millet? That's a very close sub for sorgum. This might not sound appealing, but millet is usually available in pet stores as bird food.

Looking around, i spotted a few recipes on homebrewtalk.com for Rwandan banana beer, and a few folks used Oats instead of millet or sorgum, so that seems like a good sub as well, and certainly available to you. The oats/millet/sorgum is typically toasted then mashed with the banana juice/pulp. One thing to remember is that in the traditional technique you don't boil the mash, and so lots of wild yeast do the conversion and fermentation. The end result is meant to be drank very young, and gets more sour the longer you leave it. If you want to ferment this like a 'normal' beer, you'd need to add some 2-row or 6-row to the mash to do the conversion of the other grains, then bring it to a boil.

Also, it seems like a lot of people report pretty good results from these recipes, so I think this beverage isn't too hard to make. good luck!

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Oats certainly available, millet possibly. It's promising to see some people have had success. –  Danger Fourpence Apr 19 '12 at 12:47
    
After a quick search on homebrewtalk.com, I haven't been able to find a thread on the banana beer. Is there any chance you could direct me towards one? –  Danger Fourpence May 8 '12 at 10:50
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I'm not sure how long this link is good for, but by entering "banana beer" in the search box, I get a ton of hits. I think maybe you spelled 'banana' wrong, hah! homebrewtalk.com/… –  Graham May 8 '12 at 12:27
    
Oh dear. There is a chance I searched something other than "banana", like "Rwanda" or "Burundi". I'm giving myself the benefit of the doubt here. –  Danger Fourpence May 8 '12 at 13:00
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