I could go on about Helios’s golden chariot making its longest race across the sky today and how riding those golden wheels build a big thirst that only a frosty pint of beer, cool glass of lemonade—or both—could slake. But I won’t, because this shouldn’t take that much thought. That today is National Radler Day (#NationalRadlerDay) is a no-brainer. The event—or dare I say marketing ploy on behalf of Hopworks Urban Brewery—includes a HUB-sponsored bike ride that starts and ends at Hopworks' BikeBar. Radler does, in fact, mean "cyclist" in German, so it stands to reason this bike-friendly brewery makes one, but they’re not alone.
There’s some nonsensical debate about the difference between a radler and a shandy but since the former is German and the latter is British, a rule of thumb is that radlers are lagers mixed with soda or some soft drink, and shandies are ales blended with lemonade or some other soft drink. For a good chunk of time, Stiegl Radler held domain over the summery, fruity, low-alcohol category. Now they’ve got plenty of competition including from our local brewers. Here are ten you’ll currently find on shelves or on tap, presented with two numbers: its alcohol content and a score on a scale of 1-10 based subjectively on this blogger’s personal enjoyment.
Hopworks Urban Brewery, Totally Radler
While radler’s been a staple of Hopworks’ Biketobeerfest and they’ve been blending their lager and lemonade cocktail at the pubs for years, it’s just now making its way into 16-oz pounders with a slightly different proportion for the canned version. It’s gotta be right around 50/50 since Organic HUB Lager is 5.1 percent ABV and the house-made soft drink, which benefits greatly from organic lemons, is half as strong. It’s also twice as lemony as the others in the peloton of radlers.
There are other versions with different juices but the pampelmuse is where it’s at. Actually a 60/40 blend of soda made with real grapefruit juice and Stiegl Goldbräu lager, It’s not tart but sweet like candied grapefruit peel with a whiff of flowers or elderberries. And packing just 125 calories you’ll burn it off in no time with just a little pedal power.
From Salem, this is a light lager base with grapefruit juice added and the results are straightforward: some grassy if not watery base with orchard-fresh grapefruit flavor and aroma.
Widmer Brothers, Hefe Shandy
In lieu of a lemon wedge on the rim, pouring lemonade into a glass of Widmer Hefeweizen would be a delicious, refreshing treat. But this new offering isn’t normal Hefe, it’s made with a new varietal of hops called Lemondrop. Yet it’s also made with a distillate made from lemons sourced from a flavor house in the Midwest hence the label copy that reads, “made with natural lemonade flavor.”
10 Barrel, Swill
This was dubbed the Stiegl-killer because of its dominance when this once-indie, Bend-based brewery introduced Swill, its grapefruit soda-infused Berliner Weisse. That one would’ve scored at least a 9. But last year’s return of this summer seasonal was marred by exploding bottles. This year, it returns not only shelf-stable, but with a house-concocted soda made with lemon instead. Also made using distilled lemons, it’s good but nowhere near the greatness of the original grapefruit Swill. Adds its creator Tonya Cornett, “We may periodically change the flavors of Swill when we find one that we feel tastes better.”
Shock Top Lemon Shandy
Widmer is approximately one-third owned by AB-InBev but that’s no biggie. 10 Barrel is three-thirds owned by AB-InBev but the beer’s as good as it was before. On the other hand, purchasing a bottle of Budweiser’s craft-in-sheep’s clothing Shock Top was tough to swallow. Having said that, other than an overly bright if not lab-ufactured burst of lemony freshness leaping from the bottle, this one from Anheuser Busch’s Blue Moon-wannabe brand holds its own against all others. The wheaten base gives it a soft character with the no better/no-worse “lemonade flavor added” notes lilting on top.
Sam Adams, Porch Rocker
Radler built on a Helles, a super thin lager that literally means light in German. The result is a very smooth drink that’s almost as velvety as an oatmeal or wheat based beer and more sweet than sour but still maintains a zesty, lemony flavor.
Traveler Beer Co., Curious Traveler
Speaking of Boston Beer Company owned brands, the Traveler Beer Company originated as The House of Shandy. Yep, an all-shandies, all-the-time brand. Curious is the name for the Traveler that packs both lemon and lime peel in its suitcase made of wheat beer. A touch sour. A touch of 7-Up sweetness.
Traveler Beer Co., Illusive Traveler
This is the other year-rounder from Traveler Beer Co. Far better than a can of Squirt, this shandy features a little lemon and a lot of grapefruit peel and actual juice for a result that refreshes like an alcoholic Izze Grapefruit soda.
Leinenkugel, Summer Shandy
MillerCoors owns this Wisconsin brewery that’s done traditional German styles for almost 150 years so why not call this “radler”? Anyway, the lemonade flavor sweetness is tempered by a more pronounced hoppy Weiss beer (German wheat/white beer) making it one of the more zesty and adult-oriented of the bunch.