I once asked a brewer whether he thought his beer would make a good shandy. He laughed out loud. I remain undeterred. We’ve been having some genuinely summery weather, which is just when a nice, refreshing shandy comes into its own – all the better to avoid the kind of tired and emotional scenes that come after a day of drinking in the heat, too. There’s also the whole craft beer movement and all those modern microbrews bursting with fruity, zesty and bitter flavours that seem ripe for this kind of thing. The time has come to modernise shandy.
What I really want from craft beer shandy is to shake off the long dark shadow of Shandy Bass, to kick into touch pseudo-shandy Radlers – a name pinched from the Germans, who many claim invented shandy as a drink for cyclists (which is what radler translates as) – and to stop beer cocktails hogging the limelight. It’s time we had a beery summertime delight that’s easily made well at home.
If you’re thinking, as I was, that not all beer tastes great with lemonade, you’d be right. But fear not – following many hours of shandy mixology, I’ve come up with first principles for modernising it.
• Choose your lemonade well. Taste before you mix with beer. Avoid artificial flavourings or sweeteners – but don’t be shy about using lemonades featuring additional or alternative fruits. You can even go off-piste and experiment with drinks other than lemonade, such as cream soda (try it with stout) or rootbeer.
• Use a measuring jug. Traditionally shandy is 50/50 beer and lemonade but I found – shock, horror! – that using more beer often produced better results. The recipes below use equal measures of beer and lemonade at different ratios, but you’ll find your own dream balance of flavours.
• The idea of the craft beer shandy is that neither beer nor lemonade should overwhelm. The flavours need to work together rather than against each other. I found that some of the hoppiest beers and most grownup soft drinks – such as the sharp, tart lemonade San Pellegrino Limonata – made the worst shandies. With this in mind, here are five craft beer shandy recipes to try. The beers and lemonades are widely available in supermarkets.
Booths Lemon Grass Ale (4% ABV) with Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade; 3:2 mix
On its own, this lemonade is already much like liquid Turkish Delight. I hoped mixing it with a citrussy beer would up the lemon ante, but it didn’t quite give the exotic flavour I was hoping for. The beer tempered the lemonade’s sweetness, though, and its malty flavours penetrated the lemonade to give a satisfying shandy experience with a modern feel.
Fuller’s Honeydew (5% ABV) with Lorina Sicilian Lemonade; 3:1 mix
This produced a fantastic honey-and-lemon shandy that I’d be more than happy to quaff in the garden on a hot day. I was afraid the Lorina lemonade was going to be too sweet for shandy, but it worked really well.
Siren Limoncello IPA (9.1% ABV) with Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade; 1:1 mix
This recipe is a bit more crazy than craft, due to the beer’s high ABV. The IPA has a powerful waxy-resiny flavour and a woody sourness threaded through with citrus. Adding lemonade tames the beer and reduces the sweetness of the lemonade. The two sources of lemon come together in a mouth-puckering dance of joy, punctuated by hints of sour wood with some pink grapefruit flavour in the background.
Fullers London Porter (5% ABV) with Belvoir Raspberry Lemonade; 3:2 or 3:1 mix
Giving shandy a makeover means you don’t have to stick to bitter or light-coloured beers. Use more beer than lemonade for a Black Forest Gateau-like flavour with a moreish, bitter-chocolate aftertaste.
Brewdog 5am Saint (5% ABV) and Dominion Root Beer; 1:1 or 3:2 mix
I love the weird, almost TCP-like flavour of root beer, but often find it too sweet. Adding a hoppy red ale retains the pleasing phenolic character and boosts it with a hit of hops.
What do you think? Does craft beer shandy deserve a brickbat or a bouquet?
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