Our dear Wisconsin friends at Leinenkugel's have a new summer brew showing up in bottles and at bars that have "Leinekugel's Seasonal" on the menu -- the Summer Shandy. Leine's are making their Shandy as a wheat beer with "lemonade flavor". Erica and I have been drinking and enoying it, especially on these recent scorchers, but it was reminding me of the Shandies I had as a youth* in Australia.
In my recollection, the Shandy in Australia was half beer and half English-style lemonade, which is halfway between American lemonade and Sprite. And a quick peek at the Wikipedia entry for Shandy showed that around the world a Shandy can be just about any kind of soft drink mixed in with beer. Perhaps the biggest difference between that style of Shandy and Leine's premade one is that the mixed ones dilute the alcohol, which means that on a hot summer day, you can drink more of them without getting quite so sloshed**.
So the only thing for it was to pick up a bunch of Shandy fixin's and have an old-fashioned Shandy taste-off.
Since we were comparing to Leine's Summer Shandy, I wanted a comparable beer without the lemonade flavor and so I grabbed some Leine's Sunset Wheat***. All the Shandies were half-beer and half-mixer:
We started out with some solid American lemonade: Simply Lemonade-brand:
Fuzzy: Smooth, light, very refreshing and almost frighteningly drinkable.
Erica: Awesome and delicious.
I thought R.W. Knudsen Spritzer Jamaican Lemonade might be something like the Austalian lemonade I was remembering (but it's not):
Erica: Tastes more artifical -- I'd rather just drink the spritzer.
Fuzzy: Pretty weak and watered-down.
The Wikipedia entry had mentioned a number of variations of ginger ale or ginger beer, so we thought we'd try Canada Dry Ginger Ale:
Erica: Like watered-down beer.
Fuzzy: Yeah, also pretty weak.
Since regular ginger ale seemed too weak, we tried some Sprecher Ginger Ale, which claims on the bottle that it's "icy-cool and spicy-hot with real ginger". In fact, by itself the Sprecher Ginger Ale doesn't have that strong of a ginger kick and it isn't much better mixed with beer:
Erica: Maybe it'd taste good with some fruit in it. It's a little bitter.
I'm a big fan of Limeade, so why not:
Erica: I'd rather drink Limeade on its own without messing it up with beer.
Fuzzy: The lime doesn't mesh as well with the beer as the lemon did.
Another entry in the maybe-it's-like-English-lemonade was Trader Joe's French Market Pink Lemonade:
Erica: Uh-oh, this might be my favorite. It's sweet and fizzy. Plus, anything pink you can't go wrong with.
Fuzzy: I'll give it a close second after the regular lemonade.
After trying all those variations, we gave the Leine's Summer Shandy another taste and frankly it came up short:
Erica: Huh, this is now my least favorite. It's kind of bitter.
Fuzzy: Weird, I really liked it yesterday.
So, the regular lemonade and the Trader Joe's fizzy pink lemonade were both favorites. And if the weather stays this hot, I think we'll be drinking plenty of both.
* By youth I mean 18, and that was legal for bars there. So there.
** That may, of course, be a positive or a negative for you.
***After all our tasting was over, I noticed that the label described it as "beer with natural flavors". WTF? Flavors? The whole test is ruined and we'll have to conduct it again (and again and again)!
(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Jul 9, 2007: Shandy!)