What’s in a Shandy?

25 Jun

Oh, Shandy!

Good question.  I was not familiar with the term “shandy” until quite recently.  At a recent happy hour at Spirit of ’77, a co-worker ordered the shandy, which turned out to be a combination of Vortex IPA and Campari.  I was intrigued, both by the flavor and composition of the drink and decided it was time to explore the many variations of the shandy.

First, what the hell is a shandy?  Well…it’s not so simple a definition, it turns out.  It generally is a mixture of beer and a type of fruit beverage.  Usually  some form of citrus-flavored soda, carbonated lemonade, ginger beer, ginger ale, or cider (wait a minute…that actually seems pretty simple).  In most instances the drink is an even 50-50 mix of the two beverages, but not always (ok, getting less simple now).  One look at the multitudes of shandies available all over the world, and it’s clear that the definition changes as soon as you cross a border somewhere (yep, definitely not simple to describe).  It turned out that I had consumed a shandy before.  On a trip in 2000 to Vancouver, B.C., I was introduced to the lovely beverage known as a Snakebite.  I believe we (my girlfriend at the time) were drinking a mix of Labatt’s Blue and some cider I cannot remember the name of…perhaps the 14 snakebites we drank that night had something to do with it.  Probably also had something to do with my girlfriend flashing the bar on the way out and the wicked hangover we both nursed on the way back to PDX.  She was fun, but not the marrying kind, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, the shandy at ’77 was clearly not a shandy in the truest sense, but it was tasty.  A better definition would be to call it a Turbo Shandy (one with a shot of liquor in it).  What is clear is that the shandy is the definition of a warm weather, summer-type beverage, meaning I needed some decently warm weather to explore the style in more detail.  Our recent trip to Apex for the 10 Barrel take-over presented me with just that opportunity, as Apex had the Stiegl Radler on tap.  With a little prodding from Miranda and Michael to try it, I ordered the .50 L and was awakened to a new taste and experience in summer beer drinking.  This beer is just barely beer, with an ABV of 2.5%.  Meant to be a thirst quencher without getting you tanked, it tasted more like a Squirt soda than a beer with grapefruit soda in it.  And I gotta say…I liked it.  A lot.  Not sure where I can find it for sale, other than the bottle shops, though.  Which will make it difficult to entertain buying more than a couple at a time.  I know it’s on tap at Bunk Bar as well, as I just had one with a sandwich the other day and it was glorious.

This all leads me to my walk down the beer aisle at Fred Meyer yesterday.  We were doing the weekly shopping, and I always like to cruise the aisle to see if there is anything that strikes my fancy.  All I could think about was that radler, so I was on the prowl for Stiegl.  I should have known better.  It never fails that whatever I am looking for is either out of stock or was never stocked in the first place.  The closest thing they had was the Leinenkugel Summer Shandy.  Now, I know the bottle said it was a weiss beer brewed with “natural lemonade flavor”, which is normally a giant red flag to my growing sense of beer snobbery…however, I am glad I bought it anyway.  There is no doubt this is a beer, unlike the Stiegl, as it starts off with lemon flavor, only to be followed up with the wheat beer flavor on the back end.  The “lemonade flavor” is really a bit player and not a co-star to the beer, which means this can’t really compete with, or be considered, a true shandy.  But…it’s really not that bad.  It’s definitely more of a take on a radler than a real radler, but it was nice to drink outside in the sun after finishing my weed pulling.  Now I know Leinies (as they call it in Wisconsin) is part of the Miller Brewing Company, but having yet to try items like Bud Light Lime, I am unaware of any potential comparisons to other fruity beers in the macro world of brewing.  If this beer was at a BBQ or someone offered me one, I would not turn it down.  I am not saying everyone needs to run out and buy a six-pack tomorrow, but you might want to line it up next to others in the shandy family and see what you think.

What’s clear is that I need to take my shandy exploration into my own hands from here on out.  Next steps for me are to buy some really nice grapefruit soda and some lemon and orange Pellegrino to make my own shandies at home.  I am thinking that the local IPA/Pale Ale selection might play well off of the citrus sodas.  But a nice Heffeweizen or Pilsner might also do the trick.  With luck, I’ll have made every shandy on the list before summer is over…yes, even the snakebite.


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