When life hands you lemons, make lemonade... then blend it with beer. That's the basic gist behind the shandy -- or radler if you're European -- a beer and lemonade style that is popular among certain warm weather enthusiasts.
Think of it as an Arnold Palmer, but instead of iced tea substitute a lager beer.
With a plethora of options in the shandy style category, and with no real guidance about what these things should actually taste like (besides being beer-like and lemonade-like), it seemed prudent to round up a couple of beer drinkers to get their thoughts on six randomly selected shandy products from the local beer and wine store.
Besides myself (Doug) and my wife (Liz), I brought in someone who I know has a predilection for this sort of beverage (Lance), a light lager drinker (Mike), his girlfriend who's a huge fan of Saltwater Brewery (Kourtney), and a few people in various stages of craft beer exploration (Adam and Andrew). I hoped the group would provide a proper swath of the beer drinking public.
I asked for honest feedback on each beer sampled, and what follows is a non-scientific, no bullshit, and sometimes humorous review of six shandy beers. Some are rated, others are given with simple tasting notes.
Marketed as a "tart & refreshing ... unique summer quencher is our twist on the Bavarian Radler, named for cyclists that originated this drink... for our take we combined the crispness of a golden Helles lager with a blend of lemons." Porch Rocker sits back with an abv of 4.5% and 8 IBUs.
- Doug: Light apple and lemon aroma, odd sweet aftertaste - 4/5
- Kourtney: I expected it to be terrible and it wasn't... then Mike finished it. - 3/5
- Mike: That's a beer I could drink at a minor league baseball game. - 4/5
- Adam: Slight apple aroma, initial lemon flavor, thin body, watery lemon finish. - 3/5
- Lance: Very lemony at first, more apple toward the end. On a scale of Nicolas Cage to Bill Murray, it's a Harrison Ford. Good for summer, but can't drink a lot. - Harrison Ford
- Andrew: Starts strong, fades into a solid mid, then not a fan of the aftertaste. It's no Sam Adams Oktoberfest...
This entry from SABMiller boasts that it is "a traditional wheat beer with refreshing natural lemonade flavor", complete with 4.2% abv.
- Doug: Smells like a frozen lemon push pop, some syrupy flavors and a dry finish. - 3/5
- Kourtney: It's like a carbonated alcoholic lemonade. I liked it. - 4/5
- Mike: Melted popsicle. Dry taste. - 3/5
- Adam: Strong lemon aroma, dry start, some lemon in the middle, dry finish. - 3.5/5
- Lance: Smells like I am living inside a lemon. Not overwhelming but definitely lemony. A bit bitter towards the end. - Jennifer Lawrence's stunt double
- Andrew: Smells like lemon italian ice. Tastes dry, really muted, too dry and not refreshing.
A 2.8% abv concoction from Germany, this beverage is labeled as such. "The traditional shandy ('Radler' in German) is a mixture of Edel Spezial and our own sparkling lemonade." It comes with a unique crowned cap with a metal ring attached, so no bottle opener is needed.
- Doug: Sweet pull top, aroma is skunky, taste is super sweet, finishes like watered down Sprite. - 2/5
- Liz: Smells like cheap beer with a hint of lemon zest. Bubbly with a little citrus flavor.
- Kourtney: It's like when my mom tries to give me medicine. - 1/5
- Adam: Neat cap. Heineken (skunk) aroma, powerfully sweet HFCS-like flavor, weak soda finish. - 3.5/5
- Lance: Tastes nothing like how it smells. Very very sweet. Too sweet to enjoy an entire one. Leave it to Germany... - Paula Abdul
- Andrew: Awesome to open, wanted to throw the bottle like a grenade. Smells like a forced urine sample. Bitter aftertaste, really sits on the tongue.
Next up was this entry from The Traveler Beer Co. in Vermont. It is 4.4% abv and is brewed with fresh lemon and lime and traditional Hallertau hops.
- Doug: Spritzy and sugary, has the most beer-like flavor. - 4/5
- Liz: Don't like it, don't hate it. Meh.
- Kourtney: The label makes me want to love it, bit it's basically unremarkable. - 2/5
- Adam: Weak lemon peel aroma, lemon then wheaty flavors, soda-like finish. - 3/5
- Lance: Looks appealing. Good levels of lemon, bitter at the end. The most beer tasting shandy. The Blue Moon of shandy. - A girl that you think might be hot but you're not sure what your friends would think.
- Andrew: Smells of faint nail polish. Bland. I'd drink it if it were given to me. On the good side of 'blah'.
One of my favorite American lager beers is mixed with Rhode Island's most famous frozen lemon dessert? Should be a good one.
- Doug: Faint lemon candy aroma, flavors start off good and balanced but end off with an artificial taint. - 2.5/5
- Adam: Great lemon start, disappointing mid and a poor slightly sour finish. Sad lingering flavors afterwards. - 2.5/5
- Lance: Smells like that lemon all purpose cleaner. Tastes like it too. - Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (thought it would be good, but wasn't.)
- Andrew: The can looks like a lemon italian ice. Smells like a melted lemon poured on top of a lemon Jolly Rancher. Tastes muted with a sourish aftertaste.
The iconic Carib lager, brewed in Trinidad and Tobago, is mixed with "an exciting blend of the natural ginger root extract and beer," to create this shandy at 1.2% abv.
- Doug: Pours with soda bubbles, tastes like ginger soda. Might as well be, it just seems pointless. - 1/5
- Liz: Terrible scent, tastes like soap.
- Kourtney: I hate this so much... this actually bothers me... a lot. - 0/5
- Adam: Spicy ginger, very sweet, ginger ale soda. - 3/5
- Lance: I smell nothing. Oh no. It makes my mouth chalky. Why does it exist?!? - Straight to DVD Nicolas Cage film co-staring Dolph Lundgren.
- Andrew: Less alcoholic than Zima? Smells like off-brand cleaning products. Tastes like flat ginger ale. Confused why this exists.
At the end of this first shandy tasting, scoring indicates Samuel Adams Porch Rocker as the overall winner. Personally, Curious Traveler Shandy was a strong contender as well.
Keep an eye out for our next installment, when I find another handful of random shandy style beers to
subject friends to include in a panel-sized tasting.
Did we miss your favorite? Are there any that you think would stack up to these discerning taste buds? Tweet me, comment below, or astral project your thoughts and I'll look to include it next time.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Instagram.
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