Traditional beer-making in Tanzania offers a wide variety of unique flavors derived from the fruits used to create them. In the Northeast, on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Chagga tribe is known for mbege, a brew made from bananas and sprouted finger millet.
Making mbege is a labor-intensive process that is traditionally reserved for women. These brewers first mash and boil ripened bananas, then leave the mixture to ferment in a wooden barrel until white bubbles appear on the surface. Once the bananas have fermented, they add a powder of sprouted, sun-dried finger millet along with bark from the quinine tree (msesewe).
The final flavor is pretty sweet, from all the bananas, with a slight bitter aftertaste from the quinine. The drink is often likened to something in between a wine and a beer.
Mbege is not only a tasty beverage, but a socially important one. Members of the Chagga tribe consume it at weddings, business meetings, and funerals.
Need to Know
You'll find locally brewed mbege in bars on the lower slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Waterfall or coffee tours to the area often feature a stop at a mbege-serving bar. Larger Tanzanian breweries are adapting mbege for a wider market and bottling a variety of banana-based beers. If you’re not brave enough to try mbege from a local brewer, these bottled varieties are a good second best.