I posted this a while ago to /r/homebrewing, and figured I’d post it up here as well. Minor changes were made as needed.
I want everyone to know up front that I do not want to discourage experimentation or making something you like to drink. All I want to do is clarify what a shandy actually is so that the term can be applied appropriately.
I’ve seen a lot of posts [on /r/homebrewing] lately talking about making a shandy at home. This makes sense, given that summer is nigh for the northern hemisphere and many are looking to make a nice refreshing libation for a warm summer day.
What doesn’t make sense is many peoples’ concept of what a shandy is. I’ve seen recipes involving simple lemon peel additions or lemonade/juice added prior to fermentation, recipes that omit anything resembling beer entirely, and a bunch of stuff in between.
So What is a Shandy?
A shandy is a mixed drink usually involving a 50/50 mix of beer and a carbonated beverage. Those carbonated beverages generally are lemonade (not the still American lemonade, the carbonated English style lemonade which is basically Sprite without the ‘lime’) or ginger ale. Others can be used, but they are usually clear and not hugely flavoured. If you want to use shandy as a broader classification of many similar drink styles, then things get less restrictive. If that’s the case, then there are many names for drinks that would fall under the category of shandy, depending on your country of origin, but the other most well known name would be a radler. I’ll even concede that there is now an American Shandy, made with American (still/old fashioned) lemonade. I think we can thank (blame?) Leinenkugel for that.
How Do You Make a Shandy?
Glad you asked! The first step to making a shandy is to make a beer (or get a beer if you don’t make it). The second step is to mix that beer with your preferred sugary soft drink. It would be unwise to do this en masse and then bottle the results as you’ll likely end up with shards of glass from your exploding bottles lodged in places you don’t want them. If you can filter out the yeast or otherwise kill it off, you could theoretically bottle it (like commercially available versions do), but you might run into oxidation problems from the introduction of the non-beer component if you’re not careful. Your best bet is to make a tasty beer, and mix it when you want a shandy and drink the beer when you don’t.
What Kind of Beer is Best For a Shandy?
The beer that goes into a shandy is generally lighter in flavour, and lower in ABV. In the UK you can get a lager shandy or a bitter shandy (my wife used to think she was getting a ‘bit of shandy’ because she always got half pints – adorable, right?). A radler as I understand it is some kind of lager (pils or helles anyone?), but you can also successfully use a weissbier to make a shandy. These kind of beers are just more refreshing to start with, and enhance the thirst quenching ability of the drink, so it makes sense to not use a RIS for it 😉