I must admit, if I were to have seen someone pour half a pint of sparkling lemonade into a glass and top it off with a wheat beer 10 years ago, I’d try to reach over and save that beer by saying something like, “Good Lord! Why are you ruining this perfectly good beer?” To be quite honest, I might still do that today, but by those terms I’d be stopping everyone who drinks one of my top 5 beers! Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, which makes up over 50% of Leinenkugel’s production every year, is a mixture of just that: lemonade and Weiss beer. Leinenkugel put shandies on the American map. There’s absolutely no doubt about that, but what the heck is a shandy anyway?
Shandies are a combination of light-styled beers, like hefeweizen or pilsner, mixed with lemonade, ginger ale, ginger beer, or citrus sodas. Grapefruit, being the big trend in the beverage world right now, is Leinenkugel’s new focus. However, German breweries like Stiegl and Schofferhofer have been producing them for decades. Traditionally low in alcohol, shandies are the beverage of choice for bicyclists during the summer months in Europe. This is why the term Radler–German for Cyclist–is synonymous with shandy. During the long, hot summer months, something lighter than beer, with a crisp, refreshing finish and just a slight kick of alcohol is just what the doctor ordered.
New to Michigan is Paulaner Weizen Radler Nonalcoholic, which Paulaner promotes as not only the “perfect natural thirst quencher and a great post activity replenisher” but also a terrific alternative to a sports drink.
Since they’re seen in the market as an alternative to wine coolers or ciders, whole companies are devoting themselves to producing shandy-like beverages. The Traveler Beer Company–a branch of Sam Adam’s parent company The Boston Brewing Company–makes only shandy products. Lemon and grapefruit are year-round with pomegranate, apple and pumpkin being their seasonal varieties.
Though I am a fan of the German grapefruit shandies, and long for the moderately reviewed, often forgotten Detroit Beer Company’s Detroit Radler, which has more lime flavors than most, making your own shandy is easy and fun. Sticking to traditional Weiss beers and pilsners is a sure bet, but also investigate Simcoe, Cascade and Citra hop-driven beers like Founders All Day IPA or Oddside Ales Citra Pale Ale to shake things up a bit. Upon my research, I found that Europeans often throw a shot of grenadine or raspberry syrup in the mix, and though I don’t think that’s for me, Passoa Passion fruit liquor might add to the tropical notes of an already-elevated beer cocktail.
Summertime activities are underway, with trips to the beach, cookouts, and explorations of Michigan’s parks and trails. Though beer is a universal thirst quencher, shandies are a low-alcohol, lighter-bodied alternative that can hit the spot when the mercury rises.
Do you like to experiment with beer cocktails? Keep the conversation going on Twitter by responding to @Ninoswineexpert!