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I was recently at a local craft beer festival and I tried a few shandies (my favorite was Time Traveler) and now I'm starting to get into them as well. But I've heard mixed things about their history. Some people say it goes back hundreds of years and others say it's a much more recent phenomenon.

With that said, why do they have such a bad reputation? They always seem to score low on beeradvocate and ratebeer. To me it seems as though people are rating them as beers rather than what they actually are, shandies.

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    They have been popular in Ireland and the UK for a long time as a pub drink: The barman pours a lager and tops it off with "fizzy lemonade". AFAIK, bottled shandies are a relatively recent product. – jalynn2 Mar 26 '14 at 17:24
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    Your first question on the history of shandies makes sense, but the second part seems very subjective. – Rory Alsop Mar 26 '14 at 22:49
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    I've got no evidence for this, so not adding it as an answer: the sugar from the lemonade in a shandy hides the flavour of the beer/alcohol making the drink more palatable to people who might not otherwise like beer. If you like beer, you might see this as unnecessary and look down on those ordering the drink. – James Henstridge Mar 27 '14 at 9:26
  • @jalynn2 shandy in U.K. And Ireland do not use lager but bitter – user151019 Sep 6 '17 at 18:51
  • @Mark - perhaps in U.K., but I've never seen bitter on tap in the Republic. Lager, yes: Harp, Bud, Miller, Heinekin in every pub. – jalynn2 Sep 7 '17 at 12:11
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From what I understand, Shandies as we see them now are more similar to the German Radler. Radler means cyclist in German. The way I understand the story is that a small pub owner was besieged one day by a slew of thirsty cyclists and knew that his beer supply wouldn't hold out, so he cut it by mixing it with some sort of lemon drink he had on hand. As far as I know this origin story isn't confirmed and Radler likely grew out of folk attempts to "sessionize" and extend the supply of leftover lager through the summer when lower alcohol and more refreshing drinks were wanted. According to wikipedia the first printed mention of Radler as a drink was in 1912: Lena Christ: Erinnerungen einer Überflüssigen - Kapitel 20. I believe contemporary Radlers use a lemon-soda sort of drink that's more like a carbonated lemonade than what we'd think of as soda.

Shandy itself is short for Shandygaff which is a British English term from the mid-1800s referring to beer cut with ginger beer or ginger ale. In fact, the OED still defines it as such while Mariam-Webster has loosened it up and allows for any non-alcoholic drink to be used in place of ginger.

As to their reputation, if you'll forgive me a little supposition, most commercial shandies are very pale duplications of mixing lemonade (or lemon soda) with a beer yourself. The first commercial example I saw was Lienenkugel's and it was abusively sweet. Sam Adams and The Traveler have fared a little better, but I think a major problem is that to commercially produce a shandy you need to heavily filter and pasteurize the beer and lemonade to make sure the sugar doesn't ferment or use a non-fermentable sugar, which would change the taste from fresh beer and fresh lemonade. At the scale a lot of breweries operate at, it possible some of them aren't even using real lemonade regardless of sugar type. Also, while continuously popular in Europe, beer cocktails never caught on or were lost in America and we tend to think of them now as marketing gimmicks by macro-brewers (Bud Light Lime, Bud Chelada, Miller Chill), though as they become more visible, I think they'll become more accepted.

That said, fresh shandy is incredible, I like using wheat beer.

  • Yes, shandy is great. I've never tried it fresh yet; I don't have any juice nor wheat beer at the moment, but when I get some I will give it a shot. I have a few bottles of Schofferhoffer Grapefruit Shandy left though. I tried it in Epcot while I was in Disney World a few months ago and I just had to get more – audiFanatic Mar 30 '14 at 0:59
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Shandies or Biermischgetränke (German for beer mixed drinks) are almost as old as beer itself. Recently I visited one of the oldest breweries in Czech Republic and they did tell stories of how their beers mixed well with juices as early as 18th century. Although documentation standing to the rigours of science is not available to my knowledge. Actually Shandies have a very good reputation amongst the regulars, especially women as everyone cannot palate the bitterness of beers. Shandies are known to keep the soul of beer without the bitterness of their character. The 'bad reputation' is with critics who look for remnant taste of beer; which is very unfair to the Shandy because it is after all a distinct personality, not an adjunct to beer. It is a cocktail; not a beer.

  • Welcome to the site P Singh and thank you for your answer. If you could like in a reference to your statements, your answer would be much stronger. Once again welcome. – Ken Graham Apr 3 '17 at 13:18

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