The hot summer months often put me on the hunt for lighter, crisp, refreshing beers — what you might call lawnmower beers. With over two dozen breweries in Central Oregon, we have plenty of flavorful choices to beat the heat. But sometimes I like to reach for a type of beer cocktail known as a shandy, which can be a terrific easy-drinking thirst-quencher.
A shandy is simply a beer mixed with some type of soft drink, which can include carbonated lemonade, ginger ale or fruit juice. The proportions are often half-and-half, though they are often adjusted to taste. The name comes from the older “shandygaff” of 19th-century England, which was composed of beer and ginger ale.
One type of shandy many are familiar with is the beermosa, common at a number of restaurants and pubs. Inspired by mimosa, the champagne and orange juice cocktail, this replaces the sparkling wine with beer, and is typically served in a pint glass. Another example gaining popularity comes from Deschutes Brewery and Humm Kombucha — the “Hummbeercha” which blends a light Deschutes ale with a complementary flavor of kombucha from Humm.
Radler is a type of shandy that originated in Germany and usually consists of a 50-50 blend of Pilsner or wheat ale with sparkling lemonade or other citrus soda for the soft drink component. “Radler” means “cyclist” in the Bavarian dialect, an origin which may well relate to the popularity of cycling and the need for a refreshing, less-alcoholic beverage while doing so.
In fact, the story goes that Munich innkeeper Franz Kugler invented the cocktail in the 1920s when, inundated with cyclists in the summer and running out of beer, he stretched his remaining supply by blending it with lemon soda.
A well-known example is Stiegl Radler, imported from Austria, which is grapefruit-flavored and only 2½ percent alcohol by volume. It was the inspiration behind 10 Barrel Brewing Co.’s seasonal Swill of several years ago, which blended the brewery’s sour Berliner weisse style ale with grapefruit soda.
The lower alcohol is key to the style, and commercial shandies and radlers rarely exceed five percent in strength. For best results, a lighter beer is employed for the base, often a wheat ale, or a crisp golden lager. Darker beers can be used, of course, and in Australia a variant blending lemonade and stout is known as a portergaff. But in general, the more intense roasty, coffee-like flavors of dark beers such as porter and stout tend to drown out those from the soft drink.
Other examples of shandies readily found on Central Oregon shelves include the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company Shandy series, Hefe Shandy from Portland’s Widmer Brothers Brewing Company, and Totally Radler from Portland’s Hopworks Urban Brewery.
However, in my opinion the true fun behind the shandy is in blending your own. The recipe is simple: choose a beer, choose a soft drink or fruit juice, and mix them. Start with approximately a 50-50 ratio, then adjust to your liking.
Some such beers to explore might include Hop Slice Summer Ale from Deschutes Brewery, Sweet As Pacific Ale from GoodLife Brewing Company, Fuzztail Hefeweizen from Sunriver Brewing Company, and Crux Pilz from Crux Fermentation Project.
IPA is another style that works well for blending. Boneyard Brewing Co.’s RPM IPA is a bright and fruity contender and serves as a good starting point.
When it comes to the soft drink element, the only limit is your own tastes. I’ve had good luck with orange juice, lemonade, and specialty sodas such as the Jarritos brand of fruit sodas
Another type of beer cocktail moves out of soft drink territory to mix hard apple cider with beer, traditionally a lager, known as a snakebite. Atlas Cider Co. pours several variations of snakebites at their tap room in the Bend Box Factory, including one made Crux Pilz, and appropriately enough one with Silver Moon Brewing’s Snake Bite Porter.
And rumor has it that Wild Ride Brewing in Redmond will mix their Nut Crusher Peanut Butter Porter with Atlas’ Blackberry Cider, resulting in what I have heard described as a PB&J sandwich in a glass.
Whatever your tastes, there is quite likely a shandy combination to quench your summer thirst.
Jon Abernathy is a Bend beer blogger and brew aficionado. His column appears every other week in GO!
Editor’s note: This article has been corrected. The original version misstated the location of Atlas Cider. The Bulletin regrets the error.