The Banana Popsicle Effect

by Jen O'Brien
November 12, 2020

o this day, when I taste a banana Popsicle, I am instantly transported to a shady dock at the southern tip of Lake Chelan in North Central Washington, circa 1982. It’s a scorching hot day, and we’ve hopped off our bikes to dip our bare feet in the water under the dappled shade on the south shore. My friend pulls out a box of Popsicles from the cooler and I choose banana – a flavor hard to find at home, but always available in the little store here. Though it has two sticks, everyone knows you never break it apart. The first lick I almost can’t taste because it’s all ice and no juice. But in no time at all, the melting begins, and the sweet, aromatic flavor bursts to life in my mouth. I will always associate banana Popsicles with that idyllic summer at Lake Chelan.

The human brain works the same way with other taste experiences – like beer and spirits – linking palate to place. For brewers and distillers here in the mountain west, we have an incredible opportunity to connect with customers by associating your brand with the unique places and events they can only experience out here. The untamed natural beauty and independent spirit of this region invite people to explore and discover new sights, activities and flavors. So, when people drink your flagship local brew, it becomes synonymous with their experience of place.

Maybe it’s the beer you order after a great day of skiing at Big Sky. Or the one you share with buddies while fly fishing on the Blackfoot. Or that rewarding first sip after a challenging hike in The Gallatin. Our brains are primed to associate a brand’s flavor –and the time and place it’s consumed – with a special memory. The beer becomes a character in the story people tell their friends, recounted over and over, an indelible part of the experience itself. And when those friends take a trip to Montana, guess what beer they’ll choose?

We’re fortunate to be sitting at the heart of one of the most productive barley-growing regions in the world. That means our Maltsters have the most consistent, high-quality ingredients to work with. But it takes a unique blend of art and science turn great grain into a great beverage.

When we’re crafting a malt type for a specific flavor, the magic happens in the kiln. With a deep understanding of the factors that play a role in flavor development – like air recirculation, timing and temperature – we carefully control these elements throughout the three stages of kilning. But in the process of producing the exact malt flavor we want, we also need to prevent the flavors we don’t want. The dynamic steep and germination process happens differently depending on malt type, grain quality, ambient weather conditions, water temperature and many other esoteric factors. Constantly taking stock of the activity at every step, a great maltster combines technical expertise, learned experience, and a dose of gut intuition to guide the flavor development process and arrive at the desired product.

We live in a remarkable place, where we can make a remarkable beer. Montana-born malts bring out unique characteristics that allow us to create distinctive, location-based brands that your customers will enjoy now and fondly remember later. A strong “mouth memory” can generate brand buzz, repeat visitors, fan loyalty, word-of-mouth evangelism, and future distribution channels.

At Montana Craft Malt, we love nothing more than working with brewers to co-create new beers and spirits. We’re large enough to assure the highest quality and consistency in malting, but nimble enough to customize malts to your particular flavor profile.Together, we’ll create a product – and a lasting brand – that connects your customers to the things they love most about the mountain west.

And keep everyone coming back for something truly special.

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