The weather in Vail finally is starting to feel like summer, give or take a day or two of rain. And the summer beers are coming in left and right. Some of the most popular summer beers are the fruity blends of beer and citrus flavors. Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy has been a big hit for the past few years, often selling out before summer is over. Other breweries have taken notice, and a larger variety of shandies and radlers are hitting the shelves.
What’s the difference between a shandy and a radler? Not much, to be honest, other than the origin of the name. Both are basically a 50/50 mix of beer and carbonated lemonade, and are low in alcohol. Shandies originated in Great Britain, while radlers come from Germany. The term ‘radler’ means bicyclist in Germany, and perhaps the term originated from cyclists who were looking for a refreshing, low alcohol drink that fit with their sport. While most shandies and radlers contain carbonated lemonade as the citrus element, other substitutions include grapefruit, ginger ale and other types of flavored sodas or juices. The common thread is that these beers are low in alcohol, low in bitterness, and are fruity (not necessarily sweet) and refreshing.
It is believed that radlers originated during the hot summer months in Germany as a way to make the supply of lager last longer. Traditionally, lagers were brewed during the winter and stored (lagered) for drinking during the summer months. One story suggests that an innkeeper was besieged by a group of thirsty bicyclists (radlers, in German) and decided to cut his lager with lemon juice to make it last longer. It is the ancestor of our current “session” beers.
Shandy is short for Shandygaff, which is a British term from the mid 1800’s, and refers to a beer mixed with ginger ale or ginger beer. It has come to define a broad spectrum of beers mixed with any type of non-alcoholic fruit juice or soda.
While many breweries are taking it upon themselves to make their versions of shandies and radlers, you can still always mix your own. Take your favorite beer (lighter lagers are generally more crisp than ales, and tend to allow the fruit to show through better) and mix to your own taste with your favorite fruity beverage, and wallah! You have your own summer sipper!
Shandies and Radlers in stock at West Vail Liquor:
(Along with some staff tasting notes.)
Leinenkugel Summer Shandy: 4.2% ABV
$8.49 for 6pk bottles. $15.99 for 12pk cans.
Fruity and slightly sweet, with more natural & subtle lemon. Medium bodied.
Leinenkugel Grapefruit Shandy. 4.2% ABV
$8.49 for 6pk bottles.
Big grapefruit nose and flavor.
Leinenkugel Shandy Mixed pack. 4.2% ABV
$15.99 for a 12pk with 3 of each: Summer Shandy, Grapefruit Shandy, Ginger Shandy & Orange Shandy.
The grapefruit was our favorite out of the mixed pack. The ginger was more subtle, but tasty. The orange was a bit more subdued, and slightly sweeter than the others.
Bonfire Brewing Coloradler: Brewed with lemon and mint. 6.1% ABV
$10.99 for 6pk cans.
The least lemony of the group, with more cereal grain on the palate. Didn’t discern much mint.
Boulevard Brewing Ginger, lemon radler. 4.05% ABV
$10.49 for 6pk cans.
The staff favorite. Good lemon and ginger on the nose, and a bolder flavor on the palate. Slightly cloudy with good body.
Coors Lt. Citrus Radler. 3.9% ABV
$14.49 for 12pk cans.
Lighter in color and body, but still showing good lemon flavor. Slightly sweet.