In praise of the beer shandy


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.)



  1. Had something like that down in Jamaica. Red Stripe and Ginger Ale I believe, but it's been a while. Was very refreshing after a tour of a working plantation.

    1. No. That is a horror. The correct party mix is red bull and vodka… Both taste foul so nothing good is ruined.

  2. never could get used to the juxtaposition of flavors (ginger ale and beer), but liked a drink called "redeye" I found in the Finger Lakes back in '60:
    ½ Sacramento (plop-plop) tomato juice leavened with a ½ Jenny Junior (Geneseo beer)

  3. About 25 years ago, an elderly office employee of British Rail had half a shandy (1/4 of a beer) at his retirement party.

    British Rail sacked him for breaking their "safety" rules, which meant he got no pension.

    Never mind that he had worked there, in the office, mind you, for almost 60 years, and wouldn't actually be driving a train.

    Well, the newspapers got a hold of the story, and the public made such a stink over the unfairness of it all that British Rail finally admitted that they might have screwed up, and restored the guy's pension.

  4. When I was an underage kid (about 14 or 15), a friend and I rode our horses over to the local YMCA day camp to give horseback rides to the summer campers. More often than not, we'd pack lunches at his house before riding over. That usually included a couple of canteens of ice tea, spiked with gin from his parents' liquor shelf.

    It was a pretty refreshing drink on those hot summer days.

    So why not beer and soda? Have to give it a try.

  5. Can't speak for everyone but I've had some foul bottled Shandy's in the US. What finally got me to try them again was a bar that mixed them to order.

    It was completely different mixed instead of bottled, the people that refused may have been bitten by a bad bottle of Leinenklugel's

  6. Shandy used to be very popular here in the USA

    I've had it before. Not my cuppa, or bottle as it were but its not bad at all.

  7. I tried a couple bottled ones while I was in the USAF, and they made me want to puke. An RAF exhange pilot who was in our squadron eventually convinced me to try one made to order, and despite my expectations it was pretty good.

  8. My sister and I sampled various ready-mixed and mixed-to-order lemon shandys during the summer that we and my next-youngest brother spent in England. We didn't really care for ales and Guiness, or English beers generally … but shandys were perfect. Very light and cool, and refreshing. Curiously enough, it was a proper ladies' drink in half-pint mugs, although we could put away two half-pints while Brother was getting outside of a pint of ale…

  9. Just put 15 gallons in 3 different fermenters. Not sure any of them will mix with a soda. 2 are IPA's and one a Blue Moon clone. The Blue Moon one might.

  10. Recommended by a local, Brit expat,in Botswana – rock shandy. Working in bush from early dawn and drinking beer, my usual thirst quencher, was ruining me for the afternoon in the heat. A couple of rock shandies instead fixed that.

  11. I had shandy living in England at age 12. I remember it fondly so it cant' have been too bad although I don't actually remember what it tasted like.

    I bought two different kinds of pre-bottled Shandy recently and they were both disgusting (for the full effect pronounce it with a hard g. Dis – g- usting). I suspect that "generic American beer" might not be the thing because they don't actually have much flavor, versus some English ale mixed with ginger-ale or ginger-beer.

    As a related aside, generally ginger ale doesn't much taste like ginger. My GA of choice is Canada Dry because it has more ginger flavor than the other options. Not sure why the Canadian one should, but there it is. Closer to England, maybe. (culturally, not geographically, although geographically also).

  12. I remember my dad talking about a similar drink he had in Thailand back during Nam, they called it a "Tiger Top" and it was Tiger Beer and Squirt. He said it was pretty good but didn't work with any other beer he tried.

    One of the dishwashers at my local watering hole would get some sort of beer mixed with soda, he was from somewhere south of Mexico.

  13. If available, my favorite American ginger ale is Vernors' sharper and more gingery, but still a full flavor.
    If your major grocery has a Mexican or import section, there is an American-bottled Jamaican ginger beer called DG, which is very cheap for as good as it is. Not as good as Reeds or other Caribbean ginger beers, but decent. Publix in Florida has it for $1.99 per 2 liter.
    John in Indy

  14. You guys ever have a thing called a "spider"? Fill up a glass most of the way with soft drink and then add a scoop of ice cream. Enjoy.

  15. I've only known a shandy as lemonade and beer, which I'm fond of in the summer months.

    For something a bit more stiff, I'll "fortify" it by adding a couple ounces of vodka and a bit of triple sec.

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