Mosquitoes and Banana Beer
Travelling from Europe to Tanzania involves crossing the Sahara Desert; fortunately, for the beer drinker, this is now done by air. During the three hours it takes to cross this desolate, desperate temple of aridity it is well worth looking out of the window every now and then, but ensure you have already asked the airline staff for a drink first; you’ll need one! The driest place on Earth, after a Welsh chapel, the Sahara inspires a thirst even at 35,000 feet.
Some destinations are designed for beer drinking and Tanzania is as good as they come; with the locally brewed lagers coming in at under 40 pence for a half litre bottle that normally runs at four and a half percent alcohol. A couple of warnings; watch out for Bia Bingwa at 7% and check the labelling on the Guinness as they have a high end product designed to kill an elephant at eighty paces; unfortunately that’s all it’s good for. My personal favourite is Kilimanjaro Premium Beer; it tastes a hell of a lot better than most of our own offerings on the lager front!
An urgent warning needs to be posted early in this piece, for those readers who find it difficult to get past the first few paragraphs, it is important to point out that we are not discussing the relative merits of the local home-brewed banana beer. Mbege, comes in at a similar strength to “normal” beer and has several medicinal boasts; believe none of them! Mbege is generally served in a recycled one litre plastic pot; it is very cheap and drunk widely by the locals in Northern Tanzania. They’ll enjoy your company in an Mbege Bar; the problem is that you might struggle to enjoy the banana beer! Mbege has the misfortune to look like vomit, it also smells like vomit and these two factors are pretty decisive in putting it top of the “do not drink under any circumstances” list, pushing Cava, the Fijian mud drink, into second place. However, the worst aspect of Mbege is that whilst quaffing from your litre pot, you’ll discover it also has the texture and taste of vomit. A night out on the stuff and whilst the content of your wallet remains relatively untouched, you’ll end up with your head down the toilet bowl, reminding you just what the stuff looked like to start with.