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Radler or Shandy? The Perfect Beer Cocktail For Summer

Radler, shandy, tomato, tomahto.

Shutterstock/Mariyana M

When the weather turns hot and thirst runs rampant, arguments break out at bar tops across the country over the difference between the quaffable favorite summer beer cocktail known as the radler, or is it the shandy? To finally put differences aside, the simple answer to those who shout "shandy" and those who counter "radler" is that both are correct. A radler or shandy is a refreshing blond lager (usually Pils or Helles) blended fifty-fifty-ish with lemonade or lemon-lime soda. However, the term shandy is slightly more encompassing and may also include ginger ale, ginger beer, apple, grapefruit or orange juice, whereas radlers usually reference more citrusy additions such as lemonade and lemon-lime or grapefruit sodas.

The word "shandy" comes from the old British name "shandy gaff," a drink that was first mentioned in the 1850s relating to beer mixed with ginger ale. It therefore predates the radler, which Bavarian tavern owner Franz Xaver Kugler invented out of necessity in 1922 when his daily supply of beer was running low. In fact, Kugler managed to kill two birds with one stone: he ensured that his customers had something beer-y to drink and got rid of the lemonade nobody was buying. Kugler named it radler, or "cyclist" in German, after his thirsty patrons.

While radlers are mostly popular in Germany, they're now also widely available anywhere between Romania in Eastern Europe and The Netherlands in the west.  Fairly recently, commercially produced radlers and shandies crossed the ocean and landed in America.

Regardless of one's name preference, the beauty of both is that they're easy to make and easy to buy already made. The homemade version comes with many options: one can pick any beer style or brewery and any lemonade or soda and blend in one's preferred ratio.  But on the other hand, why bother when the pros are doing it?



Stiegl Radler Grapefruit
Stieglbrauerei zu Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria

This refreshingly effervescent 2 percent ABV radler incorporates tart grapefruit juice, which yields a fresh and bright mouthfeel plus an aromatic mix of sweetness and bitter grapefruit. Flavor is unmistakably of citrus with a nice Champagne character in the finish. Flavorful and easy drinking, just as a radler should be.



Boulevard Ginger-Lemon Radler
Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, MO

This zesty take on the traditional radler pours a hazy straw and can be described as "crushable." Expect ginger aromas followed by bright citrus notes and a spicy ginger bite. The 4.1 percent ABV is evident as the sweet malty backbone is apparent in the finish.



Krombacher Radler
Krombacher Privatbrauerei Kreuztal,  Kreuztal-Krombach, Germany

A very traditional radler that's a fifty-fifty blend of pale lager and lemonade, this match creates a mildly pithy, citrus beverage with a balance of bready pale malts. Aromatics of lemon and key lime are followed by notes of lemon verbena and mint. Expect a slightly creamy mouthfeel and 2.5 percent ABV.


Photo:  Curious Traveler

Curious Traveler Shandy
The Traveler Beer Co. (Boston Beer Co), Burlington, VT

This 4.4 percent ABV lemon-forward shandy is a crisp, light-bodied American wheat ale with fresh lemon and lime added. Expect bright, juicy, citrus aromas and flavors of fresh grapefruit, orange and berries with wheat notes on the nuanced sweet finish.

Photo: Curious Traveler