Beer cocktails are all the rage these days, and the concept has many beer-fans upset. We are going to stay out of the beer cocktail debate for the time being; we are not opposed to the idea, we just don’t have enough experience with them to form a firm opinion. Beer-and-liquor combos might be the new fad, but mixing beer is nothing new. In the 18th century the practice of mixing expensive aged beer with less-palatable but cheaper young beer gave birth to the porter style, and there is a long list of modern-day examples of different beers being mixed into something new. The classic black-and-tan or half-and-half are the most well known, but today’s topic is more fitting for summer: the refreshing shandy.
A shandy is traditionally a mix of beer and lemonade or citrus-soda, but there are countless varieties and regional variations on the theme. The most common version is a lager beer mixed with sprite or 7-Up. We find this to be a refreshing way to enjoy a beer that you might not otherwise care for; a MGD and a can of sprite can sometimes be the perfect thirst-quencher on a sweaty afternoon.
There are several options for pre-made shandys, from the surprisingly drinkable Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, to the abhorrent Bud Light with Lime. But when the recipe is so simple, why bother with pre made?
Here are a few of our favorite shandy-style drinks:
1/2 7-Up & 1/2 Craft lager
Victory Brewing’s Prima Pils works great for a shandy because the lemon/lime complements the pilsner’s heavy hop flavors. Another combo that we like is an Anchor Steam (not a traditional lager, but it works) and citrus soda.
1/2 India Pale Ale & 1/2 Lemonade
Again, we are using the brightness of the citrus to offset the bitterness of the hops. You can play around with the different IPA styles for this one, but we find the standard Stone IPA works great. Try it with Limeade too!
1/2 Porter & 1/2 Ginger Ale
A play on the classic Dark & Stormy cocktail, the roasted flavors of a robust porter are highlighted by the earthy sharpness of the ginger ale. Do use a strong and flavorful porter for this (we like the Sierra Nevada Porter or Deschutes’ Black Butte Porter), but stay away from the very strong-flavored “ginger beers” as they will easily overwhelm the more delicate roasted flavors in the porter.
1/2 Belgian Wit & 1/2 7-up
Wits are already a very refreshing beer, and this mixture might take things over the top a little, but it is one way to make a Blue Moon or a Shocktop a little more palatable. And this way you can sip on your shandy all day and still stay sharp(ish).
Watermelon Summer Shandy
1/2 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon & 1/2 Sprite
Discovered completely by accident at the New Zealand Beer Tasting a few months back, this ultra-refreshing shandy relies on the unique watermelon-flavored beer by 21st Amendment Brewery. Called Hell or High Watermelon, the summer seasonal is an American Wheat ale that uses real watermelon during secondary fermentation to lend a subtle melon-y flavor and sweetness to the beer. Not really our thing on its own, but mix it with some Sprite (we liked 2/3 ale 1/3 sprite) and you get a refreshing drink that is much more than the sum of its parts!
You should absolutely play around with the ratios and different beer styles until you find a concoction that works for you. Then we suggest making a big pitcher for your next summer BBQ and seeing how long it lasts. We bet it isn’t very long!
Have you tried a shandy? What is your favorite recipe? Let’s hear about it in the comments.