The first shandy I ever had was with Mr. Jimmy Bickert at the Metropolis Taco Mac. It was, gasp, a Leinenkugel Summer Shandy (4.2% ABV, 13.5 IBU). Many people will tell you how awful that is based on the ownership of Leinies by Coors (although the family is still in control, they just have a much larger fund now) and the use of lemon extract as a flavoring rather than real lemonade, but I thought it was pretty good.
Before I get too far into this I should probably explain just what a shandy or radler is. They are both beer mixed drinks (Yes. Beer. Mixed with other stuff). Feel free to have a little beer purity freak out. I’ll wait.
According to Wikipedia, a shandy should be made with a carbonated beverage which can be gingerale, carbonated lemonade, even lemon soda (if this seems troubling, think 7 and 7; it might make you feel better about it), but since Americans tend not to carbonate things like water and lemonade it’s commonly made with the uncarbonated version in the States. Radler is the German term for the same thing. Ratios vary from equal parts beer and mixer to higher proportions of beer. Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) in Portland, Oregon offers a 70:30 mix called Totally Radler made with HUB Lager and house made lemonade which is delightful. I had it on our honeymoon, but don’t really have access to a bar that serves them here in Kansas. Hence, my desire to create a similar experience at home.
I made up a couple the other day while Austin was tasting some pale ales. For unknown reasons I decided Pale Ales were optimal for making them despite the use of a lager in the one I really liked. The first was a 50:50 shandy of Blue Heron Pale Ale and lemonade. Although I didn’t have one for direct comparison, I think it tasted damn near exactly like Summer Shandy. That might be a plus for some, but now that I actually really like beer it was a little heavy on the lemon and light on the beer. The point being I vote no on the 50:50 version, especially if you like beer. It might be great if you don’t. I also made the lemonade with lemon juice made from concentrate. I wasn’t thinking about it at the time, but I think that’s pretty much the same thing as using lemon extract. God forbid.
Next up – 75:25 Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and lemonade. First, I should mention that I really like this beer by itself. Like, a lot. I might even be willing to call it one of my favorites. That said, the mix was alright, but the lemonade overrides most of the goodness of the beer itself. Conclusion: make it if you’ve been drinking so much Sierra Nevada Pale Ale lately that you’re getting a little bored (not sure how that could be possible) and you still have a lot left, NOT if it’s your last bottle.
I’ll report back after I’ve tried a couple lagers with not from concentrate lemonade.