What is a Radler?

Have you yet to experience Radler? Your life is about to be made. It’s hot AF and by this point in the Summer you’re a touch over it. Radler to the rescue! Say hello to your new addiction.

Spoiler alert: a Radler and a Shandy are essentially the same thing, but don’t stop reading, because it’s more interesting than that. A “Shandygaff” is an English drink, equalling about 50/50 light beer and traditionally ginger beer, fizzy lemonade, or any fruit soda. Not to be outdone, a German Radler leans more specifically on the citrus side: a 50/50 blend of light beer and usually grapefruit or lemon soda. Not quite a beer, not quite a cocktail, but definitely a match made in heaven.

In a classic tale that can’t be 100% proven or disproven, the Radler dates back to the bicycling craze of early 1920’s Germany. A pub owner was faced with an unusually large onslaught of cyclists in one hot summer day, and so to keep them all refreshed and drinking, he diluted the beer he had on hand with a lemon-lime soda he couldn’t seem to sell. Necessity is actually the mother of invention, after all. Radler literally translates to cyclist in German, so logic tells us this story probably holds some truth. At around 2.5% alcohol, cyclists of old relished the fact that they could pound Radler and continue on their way. (We can not condone trying that at home, of course).

The genius of Radler lies in it’s simplicity, and the fact that you can a.) buy it or b.) make it. A good Radler isn’t sticky sweet. You need a decent amount of carbonation and the right amount of tanginess to really please the palate. Stiegl is a classic choice that’s tough to improve on if you’re out beer shopping. It will not disappoint and is a perfect intro to the style. If you’re going to attempt at home, most would suggest starting with either a wheat beer or a light lager. Wheat beer will add a nice touch of spice to the equation. Be fancy if you’d like, and find an artisanal fizzy lemonade or grapefruit soda to top it off. Skip any lemonade that’s too sweet. Remember, you want a touch of tart.

One WA contributor has been known to drink Radler over ice, in a large plastic tumbler, with fresh mint. This can be sipped while doing almost any activity that doesn’t involve driving something with wheels, which is it’s main appeal. Have a little fun with Radler, and don’t say we didn’t warn you about it’s addictive qualities.

Leave a Reply