Beer purists may shrink at the idea of mixing anything with a precious beer, but the classic shandy -- a blend of beer and lemonade -- is refreshing enough on a hot day to convert even the most stalwart stickler. Shandys have become popular with the big breweries, and brands like Leinenkugel (owned by SABMiller) offer premixed versions, but that's as silly as buying a premade Arnold Palmer. Mixing a shandy is as easy as pouring lemonade into a half-glass of beer, and experimentation with different brews and ratios is as rewarding as it is refreshing.
The benefits of the mix are twofold. The sweet and sour lemonade balances out the comparatively bitter and dry beer, resulting in a beverage that's more quaffable than even the most refreshing beer styles, and cutting the beer means you're getting less alcohol per glass (a boon when you've got a long day of drinking in the sun ahead of you). A shandy won't supplant a refreshing Berliner weisse, helles lager or wit beer, but it's a fun way to switch things up and avoid the dreaded drowsy spells that too often follow a few glasses of beers in the sun.
The most traditional examples of the shandy are a 50-50 mix of lager and lemonade, but lemon-lime soda is often used instead and there are countless versions and regional varieties of the shandy. One of the most popular varieties is the radler, and the Stiegl Radler is a German mix of marzen and fruit soda (most popularly grapefruit) that is one of the better premixed versions. Mixing your own shandy gives you more control and more options though.
Light lagers are the most common base for a shandy, but many craft beer styles also make great mixes. West Coast IPAs, with their citrus flavors and malty sweetness, are natural candidates for a shandy, and wheat beers are quite complementary to lemon-lime sodas. Hell or High Watermelon -- the watermelon wheat beer from 21st Amendment Brewery -- mixes shockingly well with Sprite, or you can try Golden Road Brewing's orangey Hefeweizen and Hansons brand mandarin soda for an all-Los Angeles shandy (I've found three cans of hefe and two cans of soda fill a large pitcher and is a great ratio).
Don't feel like mixing your own? During July, Echo Park's Mohawk Bend is offering a breakfast menu on Saturdays that features a shandy made with Hangar 24's light, tart Belgian summer ale and fresh squeezed lemonade.
Don't fall into the beer-snob trap of writing off the shandy. It's a delicious and refreshing option for an all-day drink that's a little different.
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