As a rule, I typically don’t like the idea of putting things in my beer. Like, if you accidentally spilled your grapefruit juice in my beer, I’d probably be pissed off and resort to fisticuffs. And yet, I consider the “shandy,” which is essentially half beer/half fruit juice, to be a delightful warm weather treat. You can call it a radler if you want. “Shandy” and “radler” are basically the same thing; you’re putting fruit soda or fruit juice in a beer. “Radler” is the German term and “shandy” is the British incarnation. By most accounts, the Germans came up with it first. The story goes as such: A restaurant was running out of beer because the cyclists riding by during a particularly hot summer kept drinking it. So, the guy that owned the restaurant started cutting the beer with lemon soda to make it last longer. Genius.
Shandy/Radlers (which we’ll heretofore refer to as “shadlers”) have been around for decades but I think the style has always been considered “less than” by beer purists. Because you know, it’s not pure beer. It’s some sort of mutation half beer/half juice. Is it for kids? Is it healthy? It’s confusing. Also, it doesn’t help that there are a bunch of crap pre-made shadlers out there that come across as watered down near-beers or saccharine fruit punches. The shadler has basically been considered the wine cooler of the beer world for years now.
But if there was ever a time and place for the shadler to shine, it is here and now when our beer culture is objectively obsessed with all things fruity. Have you had a New England IPA lately? Talk about juicy. It’s basically the shadler’s young, hip cousin.
So, I say embrace spring and give the shadler a shot. Typically, I’d recommend making your shadler at home on your own. Find a lager you like and a fruit juice or soda you like and combine the two. Technically, the Michelada, which combines a lager and Bloody Mary mix, falls under the shandy/radler category. You could also get a super hoppy IPA and blend it with something like Sunny D; I won’t judge you. Experiment. Get weird.
But if you want a pre-made shadler that nails the style, might I suggest UFO’s Big Squeeze, which is hands down, the best shadler I’ve had in years. Honestly, it’s better than anything I could concoct on my own. UFO makes a whole bunch of fruity beers that typically aren’t my jam, but Big Squeeze is a work of art. It’s a combination of beer and grapefruit juice that comes out cloudy and unfiltered, zesty and fruity and not even a little bit watered down. It tastes like Slip n’ Slides and sunburns. It even comes in at a respectable 4.5% ABV, so it’s still sessionable but not a complete waste of time.
I can crush this beer all on its own, but it also serves as a base for fun, summer friendly cocktails. Shadlers in general are a good starting point if you’re interested in beer cocktails. Here’s a recipe for a big-batch concoction that has summer party written all over it.
Fresh and Fruity
Recipe via Caffeinated Kitchen
4 cans of UFO Big Squeeze
Bottle of Champagne or Prosecco
1.5 cups Peach Brandy
Rosemary sprigs and grapefruit wheels for garnish
Directions: Pour Big Squeeze, Champagne and brandy in a pitcher. Stir and chill in the fridge for several hours. Pour over ice, garnish with herbs and fruit and serve. If you want to get super fancy, you can put the rosemary sprigs in the pitcher before your chill the drink so it takes on an herbal element.