Summer shandies, as the name suggests, are the perfect beer for the summer season: light, refreshing, and delicious. But what are they, exactly, and where did the trend start?
The shandy (and its cousin, the radler) is said to have gotten its start when an enterprising Bavarian innkeeper created a combination of beer and lemon soda to give to thirsty bike riders traveling through in the summer of 1922. The radler is usually made with a lager like a pils or helles, while the shandy is traditionally an ale, but both are mixed with equal parts beer and either lemonade, ginger beer, soda, or any other non-alcoholic drink.
The result is a refreshing, sweet, and light drink that has half the alcoholic content of a regular beer. This is especially useful when traveling in the summer, as American liquor and alcohol laws are notoriously tricky, as showcased in The Field Guide to Drinking in America by Niki Ganong. With the shandy’s low ABV (alcohol by volume) percentage, you can easily drink one or two and still be below the legal limit.
Though the shandy has been popular in Europe for decades, it mostly started gaining traction in the US when the brewing company Leinenkugels started producing its popular Summer Shandy in 2007. A combination Weiss beer and lemonade, it soon rose to one of the best-selling beers in the country and became a staple of American summers. Here are some of the best shandies for you to enjoy in the 2016 summer season:
1. Dundee Summer Shandy: a new beer for the season from Dundee Brewing Co. of Rochester, New York, this lemon and lager combination has a low ABV of 4.2% but big taste.
2. UFO Big Squeeze Shandy: described as “a sweet grapefruit shandy with a hint of tartness” by Boston’s Harpoon Brewery, this tasty shandy has an ABV of 4.5%.
3. Curious Traveler’s Lemon and Grapefruit Shandies: this Vermont brewery’s tart and citrusy shandies have become classics in the genre. Both varieties use real fruit and malted hops and wheats, and they have an ABV of 4.4%.
4. Ginger Lemon Radler: Boulevard Brewing of Kansas City, Missouri, has a refreshing ginger and lemon radler on the bill this summer, coming in at 4.1% ABV.
5. Porch Rocker: the popular Boston brewery Samuel Adams’s contribution to the shandy has a lemon flavor blended with a golden Helles lager and an ABV of 4.5%.
6. Hefe Shandy:from the Portland, Oregon, brewery Widmer Brothers, this shandy is described as a hefeweizen with a “bold, new citrusy aroma and flavor from lemon drop hops and natural lemonade flavor,” with an ABV of 4.2%.
7. Stiegl Grapefruit Radler: the grapefruit radler from this long-standing Austrian brewery has become popular throughout the US, and with a low ABV of only 2.0%, it’s the perfect beer to drink and still be able to steer your canoe, hike a mountain, or not burn anything on the grill.
8. Barrel Aged Turbo Shandy Citrus Ale: the shandy from the Akron, Ohio, brewing company Hoppin’ Frog has one of the highest ABVs in the shandy style, at 7.0%, and is also unique due to its barrel-aged process. If the cap is black, that batch comes from a bourbon barrel; a gold cap means tequila barrels.
Of course, you can always stick with the now-classic Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, or go the European route and create a shandy of your own. Combine equal parts beer and a fruit juice or soda of some kind, and voila! Homemade shandy. Either way, summer shandies are the perfect warm-weather alcohol to help quench your thirst, stay cool, and stay under the legal limit so you can continue doing fun summer activities unimpaired. Pick up your favorite shandy and a copy of The Field Guide to Drinking in America and travel the country this summer without fear—and with a great-tasting beer by your side.