Sunday, August 31, 2014

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Shandies

     This is yet another post where cultural biases are pretty obvious.  That is, in Western Europe a shandy, from what I’ve learned, is a pretty common beverage.  But here in the U.S. shandies are still fairly exotic, or at least unusual.  So that’s why it’s the topic of the day.
     I’m a little late on this one, too, as shandies are often considered a summer drink.  The calendar tells us that summer lasts for another 3 weeks or so, but I think most Americans consider the end to be Labor Day (tomorrow), or when schools open again (which can vary from state to state, but it’s usually the last week of August up to the first week of September).  And of course for readers in the Southern Hemisphere, summers are the colder months, so there are cultural differences there as well.
     Anyway, a shandy can refer to a wide range of drinks.  Essentially it’s a beer cocktail, a beer mixed with a non-alcoholic beverage, like a soda, fruit drink, ginger ale, etc.  Lemonade appears to be the most popular.  Here’s yet another cultural difference, because “lemonade” means different things to an American than to those in the U.K. and other English-speaking areas (kind of like soccer/football).  In the U.S. (and most of Africa, and Asia) lemonade is non-carbonated, and is usually lemon juice, water, and sugar (and sometimes honey).  In the U.K. and some other places it’s a lemon-flavored soda, a carbonated drink.  Other popular mixers for shandies are apple juice, peach lemonade, and various fruity syrups.  Also, some folks mix in other alcohols, like champagne or vodka.  For the kids there are “rock shandies,” which are completely nonalcoholic mixtures such as lemonade/ginger beer, orange soda/cola, or the American “Arnold Palmer” (after the pro golfer, who invented it), which is (U.S. style) lemonade and iced tea.  It should be said that even the alcoholic shandies (except for the champagne and hard liquor ones) tend to be relatively weak—an alcoholic content of less than 3 or 4% is pretty common.  This befits their image of being pleasant, thirst-quenching drinks rather than something that will probably intoxicate you.
     The difference in soft drinks caused a bit of a problem.  I couldn’t really locate any European “official” shandy sodas or drinks.  Therefore, purists might turn up their noses at this post, since nearly all of my attempts aren’t technically “real” European shandies.  But I wanted to give it a go, anyway, and I did find at least close approximations of shandy ingredients.  In most cases I used 7UP as the “lemonade” lemon flavored soda mixer.  For the concoction requiring Coca-Cola, at least, I was able to use the actual, definite drink.  As you’ll see, I also tried several American breweries’ versions of shandies.  I’m not sure these are considered the best examples, but there were, as always, practical considerations—i.e. what I could find for sale.  For the shandies I made myself I did use European beers, mostly German ones.
     As in my pumpkin-flavored beer segment (see October 17, 2013 post), and my investigation of light beers (see June 19, 2014 post), I’m using the U.S. scholastic system of “F” through “A,” with F being a failing grade, D bad but passing, C for average, B being good, and A for excellent, with pluses and minuses if necessary.

                                     Premade, Brewery Options

1)      Leinenkugel Summer Shandy (Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, U.S.) 4.2% alcohol.  B-.  This is a weiss beer (wheat beer) with honey and lemonade flavor.  In Europe this would probably be called a “Russian” or “Russ.”  I think it was okay, but not great.  There was a hint of lemon flavor at the end.  Alright.
2)      Shock Top Lemon Shandy (Anheuser-Busch, U.S.) 4.2% alcohol.  B.  Also a weiss beer, with spices and lemonade flavor (so it’s also a “Russ”).  Had a nice lemon punch at the end.  Solid.  Kind of a surprise to me, since typically I’m not a fan of Anheuser-Busch products.
3)      Saranac Shandy (Matt Brewing Company, U.S.) 4.2% alcohol.  B.  This was a lager and a lemonade, so would be termed a “Clara” in Spain, or a “Radler” in Germany.  Again good but not spectacular.  Very drinkable.  Sweet at the beginning, nicely sour-ish at the end.
4)      Narragansett Del’s Shandy (Narragansett Brewing Company, U.S.) 5.0% alcohol.  D.  Like the Saranac it’s a lager with lemonade, or a Clara/Radler.  Not well balanced at all.  Very sour in an unpleasant way.  Pretty bad.
5)      Leinenkugel Orange Shandy (Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, U.S. again) 4.2% alcohol.  F.  Weiss beer with honey and natural flavors and colors.  Horrendous.  The orange flavor didn’t work at all.  What is this?  A drain pour.

               User Mixed Options (These are the ones I made up myself.  As per directions, I did the beer first, and then the soda/mixer.  For most I drank half the beer, and then filled to the top of the bottle with the mixer.)

6)      961 Lager (961 Beer, Lebanon) 5% alcohol, and 7UP.  C+.  (Couldn’t locate a Spanish beer, but this would be a Clara/Radler.)  Okay—neither good nor terrible.  Drinkable.
7)      Paulaner Original Munich Lager (Paulaner Brauerie GmbH & Co. K.G., Germany) 4.9% alcohol, and 7UP.  C.  I guess because it’s a German beer, it would be a Radler.  Again, alright, but nothing more.  Drinkable, but not awesome.
8)      Hacker-Pschorr Weisse (Hacker-Pschorr Brau GmbH, Germany) 5.5% alcohol, and 7UP.  B.  A Russ again.  Solid.  Wheat beer and lemon soda seems like a better combo than other beer styles.  Sweetish beer flavor seems to mix well with a soda.
9)      Konig Pilsner (Konig-Brauerie GmbH, Germany) 4.9% alcohol, and 7UP.  D+.  This is termed an “Alster.”  Very mild, and weak.  Soda doesn’t add anything.  Bad combo, and rather a waste of time.
10)  Czechvar Lager (also known as Budweiser//Bud depending on where you are in Europe, see my World’s Oldest Breweries, March 8, 2013 post for details on that Budweiser name dispute, Budejovicky Budvar, n.p., Czech Republic) 5.0% alcohol, and Woodchuck Amber Hard Cider (Woodchuck Cidery, U.S.) also 5.0% alcohol.  C-.  This isn’t technically a shandy, as both halves are alcoholic beverages, but it’s a mixed beer cocktail, so I included it.  It’s known as a “Snakebite.”  Doesn’t really work.  Didn’t like much, but not horrific.  Weird, in a mostly negative way.
11)  Spaten Lager (Spaten-Franziskaner-Brau, Germany) 5.2% alcohol, and Coca-Cola.  F.  This is known as a “Diesel” in Germany, and a “Fir Tree” in the U.K.  Really awful.  I like both beverages separately, but putting them together is a major failure.  Another drain pour.

     So, in conclusion, looking at my results, shandies are kind of a mixed bag for me.  In general I disliked the Diesel and Alster types, found the Radler/Clara style okay, and liked the Russian or Russ the best.  But even the ones I liked, I didn’t really love.  Plus, as I often state about unusually flavored beers, I doubt I’d enjoy drinking even a shandy I like all night.  At this point I put them in the “every so often, a single one or two might be an alright change of pace” category.  But, to qualify this, as I mentioned before, I found approximates of a shandy, and not the “genuine” ones  If/when I return to Europe, or when I can purchase legit European sodas/mixers, I would be willing to give the resulting “proper” shandies a try, and it’s possible I might find these excellent.  Also, admittedly, my sample size was small, and I might have liked certain combos better with a different beer (most of the beers I used here I think are at least okay, but still).  So take these ratings with a grain of salt, or to stay with the theme, a dash of flavored soda in your beer, so to speak.


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