In England, they’re known as shandies. In Germany, they call them radlers. Whatever you call them, beer cocktails are catching on all over the world. In England, the shandygaff – or shandy – can be a mix of ale with ginger beer, ginger ale, apple cider, or any other soft drink, as well as any variety of hard cider. Traditionally, though, a shandygaff is beer mixed with ginger beer.
In Germany, the ingredients are essentially the same, but the style of beer used is, of course, lager. In both cases, these refreshing mélanges are generally low in alcohol, weighing in at less than 4 percent alcohol by volume.
The exact origins are unknown but, according to at least one account, the German version of the light, cooling beverage can be traced to June 1922. At that time of year, the weather in Germany can be very hot and humid, a combination that demands liquid rejuvenation for travelers. Alas, during that hot month, Gasthaus (translation: guest house) owner Franz Xaver Kugler didn’t have enough beer on hand to slake the thirst of the bicyclists – known as radlers – and hikers who were his guests. To solve his problem, Kugler did a quick inventory and discovered he had a lot of lemon-lime soda. In a stroke of genius, he added the soda to the remaining beer and named it for the bicyclists. And so the radler, or radlermass (in German, mass means ‘liter’), was born.
In England, the shandy has been around for more than a century. In fact, the shandygaff is mentioned in a comic novel by H.G. Wells, author of sci-fi classic, The War of the Worlds. In TheHistory of Mr. Polly, Wells describes shandygaff as “two bottles of beer mixed with ginger beer in a round-bellied jug.”
Variations abound; one of the more popular blends is the “snakebite,” a fusion of beer and cider. Beer mixed with cola is often called a “diesel” in England, and hefeweizen mixed with cola is called a “colaweizen” in Germany.
Here in the U.S.A., these bracing summer treats are brewed and distributed by many breweries nationwide. So dust off the rocking chairs on the breezy front porch and relax with a cold shandy as the world slowly turns. The combination is sure to put you in a summer frame of mind.
Here are a few shandies and radlers you can find locally.
Narragansett Del’s Shandy
Named for an iconic frozen lemonade stand in Rhode Island, this half-beer, half-lemonade brew is just the thing to quench your thirst on a scorching summer afternoon.
This sweet, 50/50 blend of hefeweizen and grapefruit juice weighs in at only 2.5 percent ABV. It’s a perfect accompaniment to a summer brunch, instead of the usual mimosas.
Engine 15 J’ville Lemon Shandy
If beer and lemonade had a beautiful baby, it would be this zesty, fresh concoction of local brewery Engine 15’s J’Ville Lager, lemon juice and some secret ingredients.