Mixing liquids like fruit juice or ginger ale into beer is really nothing new. German brewers have made “Radlers” for centuries. No one is certain of how Radlers came to be, but imagine if you will, a village brewer by the name of Deitre or Freidrik Radler messing up a barrel of lager, intended for a large wedding celebration. In his haste, he added some lemonade in a weak attempt to cover his mistake. Upon sampling it, he convincingly declared, "Das iss Gut!!!!" Radler the Brewer was a large and persuasive man, so no one dared disagree. And so Radler was born! Years later, a teenager by the name of Sandy was attempting to fill his nearly empty glass of beer with all the dregs and half empty cups of beer left behind by long departed party guests. One of the half-drunk cups contained lemonade. Later that night when the police found him staggering around wearing just his socks in a neighbor's lawn, he proclaimed that his name was "Shandy", the inventor of a new beverage.
Be it lemonade, or grapefruit, or apple juice mixed with beer, Shandys are not to be confused with Lambic-style beers. A true Lambic is created when fruits such as cherries, peaches, raspberries, or black currants are added to ale just after fermentation ends, the fruit continues to age (mature) with the ale in vats before bottling. These are pretty difficult to brew. Some say it’s an art that not many brewers even attempt to try. A Shandy on the other hand is where you have a beer, ready to consume, that you pour some fruit juice or sweet soda into. Brewers today are trying to capitalize on the notion that fruit juice and beer mixed together, are a swell way beat the summer heat.
The Shandies making their way around New England have one other thing in common; they should all be avoided! I say this with a somewhat heavy heart because the first Shandy on my list to be avoided is from a brewery I like (Narragansett), and it’s blended with Del’s Lemonade, (a lemonade I love) Also, making this choice difficult is the fact that I’m friends with the Great Granddaughter of Franco Delucia, who created his frozen slushy lemonade in 1840 in Naples, Italy. He immigrated to Rhode Island and started Del’s. It’s been in the family ever since.
The main problem with this beer is that they’ve taken ‘Gansett’s simple, grainy lager and added WAY too much sweet lemonade. The lemonade destroys any discernable lager taste, but the lager does nothing but to add a little fizz and a muddled corn feed taste. It’s simple not right!
Also to be avoided is Harpoon’s Big Squeeze Shandy. This was recommended to me by a friend (ex-friend?) who claimed he was debating whether or not to tell me he actually enjoyed a can. He added that he was eating fresh oysters at a beach party…ahhh, that might explain why he enjoyed the Shandy! He was enjoying himself and the party. Maybe a Budlight Lime would have been just as enjoyable?
You might create your own “Big Squeeze” by pouring a little Harpoon Ale that was left in the bottom of the bottle from last night’s beach party. Next, you fill the bottle with some pink grapefruit, and there you have it!
Is Magic Hat #9 a Shandy? Doesn’t really matter because it’s a beer with a perfumy apricot/peach smell and taste added, and it should be avoided. Its saving grace is that does maintain decent carbonation levels and actually looks pretty good with its nice fluffy white head, but looks are deceiving!
Some folks actually are excited to find Shandies taking up shelf space at their local packie. I can’t argue with them because it’s their right to be absolutely wrong.