Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

July 6, 2010

Beer Diary:

You Call It Shandy, I Call It Radler

There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot Midwest summer day than one of these beer and lemonade concoctions.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
Contact Eddie»
Summer is really upon us, it being past the Fourth of July and all. And for those unfamiliar with a typical Midwest summer day, let me describe one: hot, humid, and mosquito-y. Sure, there are stretches of a few days here and there that are not too hot, nice and dry, and breezy enough to keep the flying bloodsuckers away. But it seems that the majority of days are so damn muggy that even the lightest of craft beers don’t seem to be enough to slake the unholy thirst caused by the constant sweating underneath a sweltering sun, not to mention the severe loss of blood to the insects. Now some folks might say, “Eddie, this is the perfect time for some tasteless industrial yellow water, also known as ‘light beer!’”

To which I would reply: “Why don’t you just shove your thumb up your ass and pretend it’s a lollipop?”

In other words, no need to stain your soul by drinking Coors Light (the coldest tasting beer in the world with perhaps the dumbest sounding ad campaign in the world). I suggest grabbing some lemonade and some craft beer and creating a refreshing beer drink called a shandy.

Well, most people call it a shandy. I call it a radler, because that’s what the locals called it the first time I encountered such a concoction in a tavern in Munich. Radler, the story goes, was invented in 1922 when the owner of a tavern in Bavaria realized he didn’t have enough beer to get through the day. So he offered a blend of beer and lemon-lime soda. He named this refreshing potion radler, after the bicyclists that frequented his establishment.1

(Interesting note: in a lot of countries other than the U.S., lemon-lime soda is what they call lemonade. A can of Sprite bought in Germany or Australia actually says “lemonade” right on the can.)

Outside of Germany—and my parents’ basement—this drink is usually called a shandy, short for shandygaff, a Caribbean drink from the late 19th century that was originally made with equal parts beer and ginger ale.2 But nowadays you usually see a shandy advertised as beer and lemonade.

No matter what you call it, radler or shandy, these things can be super refreshing drinks on a muggy Midwest summer day. But in order to make a truly memorable radler, you’ve got to keep a couple things in mind: use real lemonade and good craft beer.

What’s real lemonade? A hint: it doesn’t come in powder form with the label “Country Time” on it, and it isn’t a carbonated Coca-Cola product. You can probably buy some lemonade made from real lemons and actual sugar (not high fructose corn syrup), but it’s pretty damn easy to make your own, and it’ll taste better:

Old-Fashioned Lemonade
(makes 8 cups, enough for roughly 10 radlers)
8 cups water
1 ¼ cup locally sourced honey (or 1 ½ cups granulated sugar)
1 cup fresh lemon juice (from around 8-10 lemons)

Next up (and the most important part): the beer. The radler I had in Germany was made with a helles, basically the lightest Reinheitsgebot-compliant beer you’re going to ever encounter. Although a few Midwest craft brewers create a brew that they call a helles—Atwater Block Hell and Three Floyds Gorch Fock are a couple—any pilsner-style lager or golden ale will fit the bill for a standard radler. Like South Shore Honey Pils, New Glarus Bohemian Lager, Short’s Pontius Road Pilsner, Barley Island Sheet Metal Blonde, or New Holland Full Circle. Chances are your local brew pub has a golden ale or something very like one on tap year-round.

I, however, like my radlers with the fruity, spicy notes you get with a Bavarian-style wheat beer: Two Brothers Ebel’s Weiss, New Glarus Dancing Man Wheat, or Sprecher Hefe Weiss.

But feel free to get crazy. Try a saison like Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bière or Lake Louie Prairie Moon to see how that barnyard funk goes with the lemonade. Get pseudo-religious and try a tripel along the lines of Dragonmead Final Absolution or Upland Infinite Wisdom. Play with some bitterness by going for an American wheat. There’s plenty to choose from, none more ubiquitous than Bell’s Oberon. Or try an Amarillo-spiked version with Three Floyds Gumballhead.

Or just go downright nuts by choosing a light (light being the key word here) IPA. I whipped up a Founders Centennial IPA radler that, because of those citrusy namesake hops, came off tasting like a super tart—and super refreshing—glass of orange juice.

OK, so you’ve got your real lemonade mixed up and your craft beer picked out. How the Hell to you make a radler?

Radler (some folks call it a shandy)
6 ounces old-fashioned lemonade
6 ounces beer

Sounds simple enough, but you might want to play around with the ratio to hit radler perfection. I’ve found that equal parts of the two ends up a little sweet, so I go with a tad more beer than lemonade—especially if I’m using a Bavarian wheat beer. But if you have a sweet tooth, feel free to go heavy on the lemonade. Whatever it takes to keep the hot and sticky Midwest summers at bay, and shitty ass light beer out of your fridge.

1 Radlermass,

2 Sharon Tyler Herbst, Food Lover’s Companion (New York: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 2001), 560.

I had a "shandy" made with iced tea that was very good. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to create a decent one of my own. Have any advice?
posted by Ryan | July 6, 2010, 7:05 PM
Interesting. What kind of beer was it blended with? I'm not much of a tea drinker, but I would think the fruitiness of a Bavarian hefe would go good with tea. Or if the tea is overpowering, maybe go a little darker, like a lighter amber lager/ale?
posted by EddieGlick | July 7, 2010, 8:29 AM
I've been to the Kugleralm, where Radler was "invented." Nice place.

You're correct in that lemonade or "limo" is actually lemon-lime soda (Sprite or one of the many local versions).

There's actually several variants as well in the German style:

Russ or Russ'n - weissbier & limo
Diesel - beer & Coke
Neger - weissbier & Coke
Krefelder - altbier & Coke
Drecksack - kölsch & Coke

There are several regional variations, but the Radler, Russ & Diesel are all pretty common in the south. In fact, many people will drink them during the work day, at lunch break, etc. and its common for Bavarian construction workers to sip on a beer throughout the day.

Personally, I've found a 2/3 beer & 1/3 soda mix to be a little tastier as the 1/2 & 1/2 mix tends to be very sweet.
posted by rings | July 8, 2010, 11:57 AM
Why do you rant so much about macro beers? After all, what?s the best beer in the world? By democratic principle, the best beer in the world is whichever one sells the most. Everyone gets a vote every time they go to the beer store. Learn to accept it: everyone has different tastes and it?s a damn good thing. The world would have a lot more problems if everyone wanted the exact same things. You might as well debase everyone in the world who doesn?t like the same food as you, who like different movies, who don?t dress like you, who don?t also live with your parents, and who isn?t the same skin color as you. Man, come to think of it, everyone who isn?t you must really suck, huh? What a wonderful world this would be if everyone was such a pompous ass and worried so much about what other people drink.
posted by Rich | July 15, 2010, 3:34 PM
Wow...breathtaking ignorance. You have your panties in a bunch, yet you don't make any sense, Rich.

Craft beer drinkers - by definition - NEVER drink the same thing all the time...not the same brand or style - that's why this site reviews hundreds of different beers, instead of just Bud Light. The reviews, columns & news here is about sampling all the wonderful variety the world of beer, and its offspring, has to offer.
On the other hand, conformity is EXACTLY the problem with macro brewers, who have shoved the same, low quality, tasteless "brew" down consumer's throats for decades, relying on funny commercial campaigns and misinformation like "triple hopped" and "beechwood aging" when, in truth, they're all making the same generic product and cultivating/suckering the same "loyal" brand drinkers who haven't the first clue about what they're actually consuming.

Further, sales volume has little or nothing to do with quality or flavor. By your rationalization, McDonald's is the finest hamburger in the world, Taco Bell sells the world's best Mexican food, Chef Boyardee creates the world's finest spaghetti, Toyota Corolla is the world's greatest car, Wonder is the world's best bread, and Pizza Hut is the world's top pizza.
posted by rings | July 15, 2010, 4:16 PM
haha u r pwned by Rings. epic fail Rich </3
posted by Jug | July 15, 2010, 5:54 PM
To Jug[head?] - Your lack of facility with the English language has caused me to question my cherished stereotype that ?connoisseurs? of beers with limited public appeal are all haughty yuppie pretenders.

To ?rings? - Your counter examples are not relevant, and hence your argument is deeply flawed. For example, what was the best song of 2009? A bunch of snobby critics at the Grammy?s can have their own ideas, then a bunch of cokeheads at MTV can have theirs, but the best song was whichever one sold the most copies. It is what maximized the total public utility. What?s the best car? That?s different, as there can be a 20x difference between the price of a Corolla and a Ferrari. In contrast, songs all cost roughly the same (maybe a 50% difference, sometimes). Beer is more like songs. If you?re out at a bar and you?re going to have a beer, there is relatively little difference in the price of a macro brew versus a craft brew. Thus, the best selling one is the ?best?. Mind you, it may not be your favorite or mine, but it does satisfy the most people.

In any event, I shouldn?t have brought that up in the first place. My main point, which you conveniently ignored, was that it is great to have your own tastes. Isn?t that supposed to be the point here? However, calling people ?idiots? and ?dumb assholes? for preferring something different (as Eddie has done before) reveals oneself to be an extremely intolerant elitist. You are free to dislike a product, but expressing disdain for other people because of the relatively innocuous choices they make for insignificant consumer products is the epitome of arrogance.
posted by Rich | July 15, 2010, 7:44 PM
However, calling people ?snobby critics? and ?cokeheads at MTV? for preferring something different (as Rich has done before) reveals oneself to be an extremely intolerant elitist. (and a hypocrite)
posted by Jug | July 15, 2010, 8:56 PM
To Jughead - You should get your GED so you can go to university and take a course in logical reasoning. Obviously, I don't think everyone needs to do this, but if you?re going to venture into the realm of reasoned argumentation, you obviously need some guidance. I only call them ?snobby critics? and ?cokeheads? (which they are, BTW) because they presuppose that their opinions are superior to the collective preferences of the masses. In contrast, I adopt a populist standpoint. Just Google the words you don?t understand.
posted by Rich | July 15, 2010, 11:03 PM're talking in circles and making illogical points, all while sitting on your self-appointed perch of wisdom. Its hard to have a battle of the wits with someone who may not be armed, but I'll give it a go.

You claimed that "by democratic principal," sales basically equals quality. I disagreed, and pointed out several obvious examples to illustrate the point. You're trying to refute that with a songs example, which is totally different, as music/fashion/trends come & goes year after year, but a Bud drinker continues to drink with his head in the sand, often lifelong. The macro world offers NO variety, yet you're trying to defend it?

As for your "main point," it was not ignored. If you'll read my initial response again, I'll refer you to the first two sentences of the second paragraph. I typed it slow, so it would be easier for you to understand. This site is about OPINIONS on DIFFERENT brews, i.e., "variety." If you don't like the opinion, just click "disagree" button on the review. It's so easy, even a Rich can do it.

As for your premise that Jug or Eddie can't spout off about ignorant macro beer drinkers and the multinational conglomorates to which they pay homage, I would only say that those companies have BILLIONS of marketing dollars to make their voices heard. Craft beer fans have a few lousy websites to make their views known. You're free to disagree, as I reference above, and continue to support the evil empires and their commercial swill, but don't come on here spraying napalm while claiming that you're offended by the minority attitudes here expressed...that is the eppitome of hypocrisy.
posted by rings | July 16, 2010, 10:06 AM
Since Rich has intimated in his post that he's gone "to university" and has indeed taken courses in "logical reasoning" and "reasoned argumentation," I thought this would be a good time to examine his foremost argument, that the best beer in the world is whichever one sells the most. This actually is a tenet of the philosophical school of thought known as utilitarianism. The father of utilitarianism is a 19th century English polymath named John Stuart Mill. He argued that if you take any two pleasures, the one that most people preferred was therefore the greatest (best) pleasure. We can easily translate this argument over to beer, since it follows that the beer that provides the greatest pleasure would be the "better" beer.

But even Mill acknowledged flaws in the simplicity of this argument, and issued rejoinders to address these flaws. And, as it happens, the two biggest keystone flaws (and their rejoinders) are illustrated by a statement Rich made in one of his comments:

"What?s the best car? That?s different, as there can be a 20x difference between the price of a Corolla and a Ferrari."

He's saying that even though a Ferrari is a better car than a Corolla, the Corolla is more popular, because of the price. Rich, of course, is right. And Mill agrees with him. This is the essence of Mill's rejoinder "The Weakness of Wills." Even though the Ferrari is clearly the better car, it's not the most popular because the Corolla is easier to get. Mill says that humans "often, from infirmity of character, make their election for the nearer good, even though they know it to be the less valuable." This, again, can easily be applied to beer. You can't walk into just anyplace and get a craft beer--a large number of bars and stores just don't stock them. So it takes effort to seek out good beer, and some people would just rather buy whatever beer is available. Or maybe it's too difficult to choose a craft beer from the dizzying array of styles and brewers out there, so you just buy something that you saw a clever ad for. Or maybe it's easier for you to grab a plastic cup and drink from your buddy's pitcher of Miller Lite like all your other friends instead of walking up to the bar and waiting for a bartender so you can order a Bell's Amber. So these people's "votes" for the best beer can't be counted, as they've chosen the beer not for its quality, but for its easy access.

Mill's other keystone rejoinder is the "Competent Judges" reply. Mill argues that people who don't fully comprehend a pleasure--are not "competent judges"--their vote shouldn't count toward what is the greatest quality pleasure. Rich drives this point home: although I don't know Rich, it's safe to assume he doesn't own a Ferrari, and probably hasn't even driven one. But he clearly assumes that it is a better car than a Corolla despite its lesser popularity. This is because people who understand cars--drive them professionally, repair them, study and critique them--in other words, "competent judges," have given their opinion, and their opinion holds more weight than, say, a person who buys a Corrola off the first lot he or she visits without even dickering over the floormats.

I'm not saying we Beer Dorks are more competent judges than anyone else (even though several among us have home brewed for competition, taken sensory/tasting classes at the Siebel Institute, and served on tasting panels at a large commercial brewery), BUT I am saying that a person who has only drank light industrial lagers is NOT a competent judge. Because in order to be a judge of a beer's quality, you must be able to compare it to something else. You can't drink only one beer, a Bud Light, for instance, and proclaim it the best beer in the world without having drank another beer to compare it to. So the millions of people in America who haven't even tried a craft beer can't be considered a competent judge of what kind of beer is better than the other, because they've only had one kind: light industrial lager. Therefore, their "votes" can't be counted, either.

So Rich with his statement about Corollas versus Ferraris basically skewers his own argument. Hopefully he can get his money back from the university where he took his "argumentation" classes, or at least the university could get its diploma back. Oh, and Mill's final rejoinder: those who blindly assume the most popular cultural artifact is therefore the best quality are, to use a philosophical term, dumb fucking assholes.
posted by EddieGlick | July 18, 2010, 9:58 PM

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