Originally published in the August 2022 Issue of the Old Town Crier Magazine
It gets hot in the DC area in August, real hot. It can be unbearable. This is the time of year that reminds us that large parts of our area are reclaimed swamp. If the humidity doesn’t remind you of it, the mosquitos certainly will. For many, it is a time for cooler, lighter drinks. The stouts and ales become less popular. And the Shandy takes center stage.
That’s right, the Shandy. Or its German cousin, the Radler. No matter which of the names you choose, it’s a beer with either fruit soda or fruit juice in it. As my readers know, I am not usually a fan of any kind of flavored beer. My sister once tried to hand me a Bud Light Lime when I asked her if she had any beer. My first impulse was to disown her. I didn’t. But when we are together, I now tell people that she is a distant cousin from a foreign land called Cleveland. Yes, I am a purist when it comes to beer. And now I’m recommending a beer with fruit juice in it. Yes, I am once again being a hypocrite. But summers are hot, and adjustments can be made. These traditional summer delights are refreshing and quite enjoyable. The trick is to make them correctly. More to come on that point.
People argue over beer all the time. Fisticuffs have ensued over which beers are the greatest. Belgian and German beers are often at the center of these arguments. The answer is, of course, German. The German purity laws, the Reinheitsgebot, are second to none. The German’s approach to beer is as pure as a bee’s approach to honey. And both the bee and the German bring us perfection. Do not take me wrong, the Belgians do make great beer. And I do enjoy many of their beers. I just do not care for the ones they fruit up. The fruit flavor often overpowers the beer. So, I am stating that I do not care for fruity beers and recommending the Shandy. Are you rolling your eyes? Good. Keep reading.
A little history first, the Shandy is the predecessor of the Radler. The two are similar, but not the same. And both are summer traditions. The Shandy originated in the pubs of England in the 19th century. The original name was Shandygaff. Back then, it was a mixture of beer, usually a pilsner or helles, with ginger ale or ginger beer. Today, it can be mixed with all kinds of non-alcoholic beverages, but most often a lemon/lime soda. Charles Dickens once referred to it as the “perfect alliance between beer and pop.” The Radler has a quite different history.
Although there is no official record, legend has it that the Radler was invented in June of 1922 by a barkeep named John Xavier Kugler. According to Hopculture.com:
“As the tale goes, Kugler, an innkeeper in Deisenhofen, Germany, capitalized on the country’s biking craze by creating a bike trail from nearby Munich to his tavern. One beautiful day in June 13,000 cyclists wound their way to his establishment looking to quench their thirst. Overloaded with thirsty patrons, Kugler quickly began to run out of beer. But a stroke of genius saved him. Kugler cut his pilsner with overstocked lemon soda.”
It was an immediate hit. Nowadays the Radler is still usually made with lemonade or lemon soda. Like its cousin the Shandy, it is a great way to take a lighter beer and turn it into a refreshing summer drink. If made properly, both are quite delicious and thirst quenching. Therefore, I am quite forgiving when one is handed to me on a hot summer’s day. I haven’t disowned anyone family members over it.
Whichever one you choose; I offer two rules when it comes to enjoying this summer delight.
The first rule, drink only freshly made, not mass produced. Yes, it’s August, and you see Shandys and Radlers in the beer department of every store. Don’t! Just don’t! None of them are anywhere near the quality level of one that is made by your local bartender. Or better yet, by you in your own home. A draft pilsner or helles from your local craft brewery works wonderfully when creating one of these thirst-quenching sensations. Fresh lemonade can be a huge plus as well. These drinks were meant to be made fresh, not mass produced and bottled.
The second rule, the measurements must be correct. It very easy, and the same for both drinks. The trick is a 1:1 ratio. One part beer to one part mixer. So, if you are making a 12 ounce Radler, you use 6 ounces of beer, and 6 ounces of lemonade. Going too heavy on either side can greatly alter and ruin the flavor of the drink.
And lastly, for all the gentlemen reading this article. Guys, you need to let it go. These are not “Ladies Drinks”. I am not sure when that connotation started. I believe it is an American misconception. The 13,000 German cyclists who tried the first Radler in 1922 would have certainly been mostly male. And the British Pubic Houses in the 19th century were filled mostly with men. Yes, if my grandfather were still here and saw me order one, he would have asked me if I was planning on a career selling ladies undergarments. But he was born in the 1890s. He had very different opinions of the roles of men and women. And being Irish, he would have hated the Shandy for its British roots. But it’s 2022 for God’s sake! You do not get to disparage your friend for drinking a Shandy. Be confident in your masculinity. Go to your local brew pub and order a Radler or Shandy. And if some buffoon has something to say about it, merely scoff at him as you enjoy your drink. He’s a neanderthal. You, however, are the epitome of a modern man, confident and proud. Enjoy your Shandy! Just make sure you keep your pinky down while drinking it. You don’t want to look like the Queen sipping her tea.
Tim’s August Whiskey and Cigar Recommendation
Summer is rum season, so I’m recommending another rum. A recommendation for a good sipping rum came to me from our publisher, Bob Tagert. As Bob was convincing me to try the rum, which didn’t take long, the discussion moved to which cigar may pair well with it. This then led us to consulting John Pann, partner/manager of John Crouch Tobacconist in Old Town Alexandria. We planned to do a rum and cigar tasting in the courtyard of my building. We assembled on a perfect Saturday afternoon. The beautiful weather combined with great rum and cigars made for quite a fun event.
SelvaRey White Rum: All three of us tend to lean toward amber or darker rums, but this white rum delights us. It is an aged white rum. It is a blending of 3 to 5 Panamanian rums produced in the distillery’s 1922 Copper Column Stills, then aged in American bourbon casks. The rum is then filtered to remove any color. Aged in bourbon casks? No wonder I love this rum. It has a sweetness that is pleasant, not overpowering. You get vanilla on the palate, but not too much. It’s one of the flavors, along with toasted sugar and hints of cocoa that the rum has pulled from the wood cask. It’s 80 proof, and at $30 is a great value. It’s wonderful on the rocks. And it blends well in any cocktail.
My Father’s Cigars Flor de las Antillas: John presented both of us with a fantastic cigar to pair with the SelvaRey White Rum. My Father’s Cigar’s Flor de las Antillas Toro was Cigar Aficionado’s Cigar of the Year in 2012 garnering a 96 rating at the time. It still has a rating of 90 and is well worth the $9.20 price. Bob and I held our cigars with great anticipation as John described the flavor profile. The Flor de las Antillas has light creamy and earthy tones with hints of white pepper. The mouth feel is soft leather and silky at the very end. It complements the vanilla tones of the rum perfectly. What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
This cigar, and many other fine cigars, are available at John Crouch Tobacconist 215 King St. Alexandria, VA 22314