I was pleased to see fellow South African expatriate Kim du Toit praise the merits of the humble beer shandy on his blog the other day. I’ve tried to introduce my American friends to it, but many of them refuse with expressions of distaste, even disgust. They won’t even sample it – and I’ve never understood why.
Kim writes of mixing beer with Sprite or 7-Up for a lemonade-type shandy. I find them too sweet, so I generally use ginger ale or ginger beer in my shandies. (Hint: don’t try tonic water. In fact, don’t even think of it!) As for the beer, don’t bother using craft brews for this; you’re going to ruin the “pure” beer flavor they offer, so why spend extra money on it? Like Kim, I find “light” beers don’t work: they’re close to dishwater anyway, so they don’t provide enough flavor. Any standard American brew will do. I mix my shandies half beer, half soda. You can vary the mixture to taste. (If you’d rather try a commercial shandy, Leinenkugel offers a couple of interesting flavors. I’m sure there are more out there, but I prefer to mix my own rather than pay someone else a premium to do so.)
If you’ve never tried shandy, it should be on your short-list of things to do soon, particularly in the summer months. If you’ve just got hot and sweaty mowing the lawn, or doing any other task like that, and you need a real thirst-quencher, a shandy will go down very smoothly indeed. What’s more, it doesn’t contain enough alcohol to be an issue if you have to drive somewhere later. I can recall many days when, after hours of driving across a baking hot desert landscape in Namibia, we’d pull into Karasburg or Keetmanshoop or Walvis Bay and, even before going to our rooms, down a few ice-cold shandies in the hotel bar. You could almost feel and see the steam rise from your overheated body as they cooled you down.
If you want a particularly tasty shandy, try a mixture of the beer of your choice with Canada Dry Bold Ginger Ale. If you’re watching your sugar or carbohydrate intake, you can use Canada Dry Zero Sugar Ginger Ale or an equivalent product; the resultant shandy isn’t as flavorful, but it’s still not bad. (No, I’m not being compensated for mentioning either product: they’re what I use, so I suggest them out of familiarity with their flavors.)