The summer’s biggest alcohol craze is radler – the perfect solution for those who aren’t quite up to quaffing full-strength beer all afternoon on the patio but who, like any self-respecting beer drinker, find light beer somewhat less than satisfying. As with most beer-based innovations, radler originated in Germany. Think of it as the Bavarian cousin of a British shandy: Beer combined with a fizzy juice for ultimate refreshment and low alcohol. Bonus: With a hit of vitamin C, it even gets a healthy nod.
Radler’s origins date back to the 1920s in the small village of Deisenhofen, just outside of Munich. As the boozy tale would have it, an ambitious business owner named Franz Kugler decided to take advantage of post-war cycling mania by creating a trail from Munich directly to his establishment. Chaos ensued shortly thereafter when 13,000 cyclists descended upon his bar at once and just about drained his supply of beer. The quick-thinking Kugler rushed to the cellar, where he had been keeping a stock of fizzy lemonade. In order to stretch his beer and deplete his stock, he combined the two. He called it “radlermass” – “radler” meaning cyclist, and “mass” referring to a litre of beer.
This might very well be the summer of the grapefruit/non-lemon radler, given its recent explosion on the scene. A mere two years ago, there were virtually none on the market. We taste-tested eight of these popular bevvies with your summer enjoyment in mind, and rated them on a wedge scale (a score of four wedges being the highest). Prost!
All the grapefruit beers, ranked
Bavaria Radler (Holland, 2%)The most pithy and bitter of the group - and also the most sweetened and confected. Lacking in refreshment but pleasantly the lowest in alcohol. Bright-pink colour. Price: $2.45/473-mL can at The Beer Store
Rating: 1.5 wedgesThe Beer Store
Moosehead Radler (Canada, 4%)This example tastes much more like grapes and apples than grapefruit or lemon. Sweet with a slight tinny taste, edgy but very potent. $24.95/12 355-mL cans (not pictured here) at The Beer Store
Rating: 2 wedgesThe Beer Store
Lowenbrau Radler (Germany, 2.5%)Made with lemonade in the traditional Deisenhofen fashion. Highly appealing and tart with just a touch of sweetness for balance. Notes of lemon curd, elderflower, anise and green apple are notable on the elegant palate. $2.45/473-mL can (not pictured here) at The Beer Store
Rating: 3 wedges The Beer Store
Rickard's Radler Grapefruit (Canada, 3.2%)Light, easy-drinking and clean, the flavours are very fresh with a great deal of vibrancy. Pleasantly tart, refreshing and nicely balanced. Round, smooth supple and easy to enjoy. $2.45/473-mL can at The Beer Store
Rating: 3 wedgesThe Beer Store
Amsterdam Sweetwater Squeeze Radler, Blood Orange (Canada, 3.8%)Blended with house-made citrus soda, this is one of the sweeter radlers, but the tang of the exotic and very authentic blood orange is irresistible. The Sweetwater boasts the most potent aromas and intense of flavours of the lot and can pair well with barbecued food. $2.85/473-mL can at LCBO
Rating: 3 wedgesLCBO
Waterloo Grapefruit Radler (Canada, 3.1%)The palest in colour, with genuine grapefruit flavour. Pure and clean with an appealingly delicate honeysuckle aroma. $2.45/473-mL can at The Beer Store
Rating: 3.5 wedgesThe Beer Store
Schöfferhofer Grapefruit Wheat Beer Mix (Germany, 2.5%)The base beer is wheat, so this is the most floral and the most acidic of the group. It boasts an enticing bright coral colour. A highly refreshing radler and pretty, too, but certainly not a pushover. $2.50/473-mL can at The Beer Store
Rating: 3.5 wedgesThe Beer Store
Steigl Radler, Grapefruit (Austria, 2.5%)Tastes the most like authentic grapefruit juice with the least sweetener. Classy and clean with a great deal of flavour and spot-on balance. There is a nice level of fizz here, not overly carbonated - easy to drink and superbly refreshing.$2.70/473-mL can at LCBO
Rating: 4 wedgesLCBO