Now that summer is REALLY upon us, it’s time to look at what’s available in the beer world to drink that quenches thirst and cools as much as it lends a little buzz. This is the perfect time of year for pilseners, wheat beers, kölsch, etc, but there is also an easy-to-make and even easier to enjoy beer “cocktail” called the Shandy.
Originally, the Shandy was a combination of beer and ginger beer or ginger ale, but there are variations using lemon soda or lemonade that are really good, too. The radler is a popular variation of this in Germany, consisting of beer and lemon soda. I use yard beer and cans of sugar-free lemonade (technically, an alster). Carbonated lemonade would work well, too, and I suppose some of the flavored lemonade drinks would be nice, as well, assuming there are no flavors to clash (which is why I use a beer like Miller Lite, which has no flavor to begin with). There are other variations using a little grenadine in the mix, or Angostura bitters. I haven’t tried either of these yet, but the Angostura bitters addition sounds great!
With a little experimentation with ginger beers, let me tell you that the key to this recipe is the quality of your ginger beer. Some of them are really sweet, which I didn’t like, so for me, the trick is finding a good, dry ginger beer to use. I haven’t tried ginger ale yet.
I ended up with some friend’s cans of Miller Lite in my cooler a couple weekends back, and not liking to drink that beer at all, but having a few cans of lemonade on hand, I made a couple “shandies” and I liked them just fine! There is no magic to the recipe. I simply open a can of each and pour 1:1, but tip the lemonade more if you want more lemonade or use a heavier pour on the beer if you want more beer. It ain’t rocket science!
Any of the yard beers will work great for these drinks, and it’s a good way to turn a barely palatable product into something actually enjoyable. I wouldn’t take a Bell’s Oberon, for example, and make a radler out of it, although I’ll bet it would taste good. I can hardly imagine any beers outside of the pilsener/yard beer spectrum being good, but experimentation is always available to you. There are plenty of great pilsners on the market today, that aren’t yard beers, and again, I’d hate to dilute a beer like Prima Pils with lemonade, so for me these drinks are usually only resorted to when I don’t have something better to drink.
I would avoid the pre-mixed shandies, like Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy. They are really diluted with way too much soda/lemonade relative to the beer.
Let me know if you have a favorite recipe.