At Beer School, we’re not particular fond of the shandy, which basically involves mixing a light lager with some lemonade. It’s OK, but there are better ways to booze up your lemonade, and since a mundane light lager is usually tasked as a shandy’s backbone, it’s really not drawing on any notable brewing notes. A shandy is a great way to plow through an icky batch of home brew, however.
In Germany, a popular alternative is the radler, which is basically a mix of beer and fruit juice. Hefeweizens are combined with grapefruit juice or orange juice to create a refreshing drink that generally drops the ABV into the 3 percent range. “Radler” by the way, means cyclist, which implies that this beer is seen as an energy drink of sorts.
The style has been catching on in the U.S. to the extent that Coors has a variation on the market. Several craft beers are experimenting with techniques to take the radler to a different level, but a number of German selections can be found at better beverage stores around town.
Making your own radler can be fun, but you want to find a light wheat beer that isn’t overly hopped or spiced. Hops don’t always play well with fruit, but the flavors of the wheat do. Zauber’s Vertigo is a great local hefe that can hold up its end of a radler. Fresh squeezed grapefruit juice is the way to go here. There’s nothing wrong with Orange juice, but the hints of vanilla and clove in vertigo are better with the more astringent grapefruit.
A couple of six packs of gose, and a table full of mixologist friends could make for a fun night.
If you’re really bold, however, skip the radler and spend the sweltering dog days of summer sampling goses. It’s pronounced “goh-zuh.” It’s light sour wheat beer that is flavored with coriander, and salt. Done poorly it will taste like something you should sprinkle on fries; done properly it is pint of pure refreshment. The salt pulls together the rest of the flavors in a lemony thirst quencher that has a slight hint of herbaciousness from the coriander. The salt is believed to be added to replicate the briny water that was used in the original offering hundreds of years ago, but it’s a welcome and necessary addition. Much like a pinch of salt atop some freshly cut strawberries, or watermelon releases the flavors, salt in this beer opens another dimension.
Gose has been mentioned before as a gateway sour. It’s light and manageable, with just enough of a pucker factor to train the novice palate. It’s also a beer that can handle a bit of flavor. In Germany, flavored syrups are sometimes added to goses to sweeten them up a bit. Pigskin Brewing started things off by banging out a godes, but there’s a staggering number of these on the shelves at your better craft beer outlets, some are true to form, others have been tweaked with some fruity accompaniments.
There’s no rule that says you have to limit yourself to fruits and syrups, however. How about splash of sweet vermouth, or maybe something bolder like Fernet? You know, a couple of six packs of gose, and a table full of mixologist friends could make for a fun night.
– Steve Croyle