Greg Koch, co-founder of Stone Brewing posted a short tirade on his Facebook page in reaction to a news article which noted the increasing number of shandies on store shelves. He wrote:
Not satisfied by their declines, the major brand beer companies look to Europe for ways to drive a bigger stake into the heart of beer, faster. http://www.nbcnews.com/business/its-beer-its-lemonade-its-shandy-its-coming-us-6C10095813
Heck, mixing their beer with lemonade, soda pop and other sugary drinks helped the German industrial brewers lose credibility, why shouldn’t the USofA pile into that sinking boat too!
There’s nothing like sending a message to consumers that says “Hey, fed up with beer and or just not in the mood for a ‘regular’ fizzy yellow beer? Let us add HFCS / sugar and flavorings into it for you.” Bam! Instant respect from everyone (if “everyone” means “that MBA guy in the marketing dept charged with analyzing new trends”).
I'm sympathetic – to a point. The "shandies" I see on shelves are lemon flavored beers, not drinks comprised of a 50-50 mix of beer and lemonade/soda. Your shandy should not be 4.5% ABV; it should be 2.8%. So, yeah, MBA types in marketing divisions deserve a ration of shit.
On the other hand, I don't feel that a proper shandy or radler is deserving of scorn. These drinks have been around for a long time and are quite refreshing. Greg Koch should step outside California and/or talk with people other than those who spend an inordinate amount of time on the Beer Advocate forums because not everyone wants to drink a fucking pale ale or one of its cousins, i.e. – APA, IPA, black IPA, Belgian IPA, &c. Considering that Stone seems to be, outside of a handful of porters and stouts, a one trick pony – pale/amber ales and variations thereof – the MBA types at least deserve credit for seeking out something different. Furthermore, not everyone wants to spend a hot summer day drinking a fucking double, imperial, mega-boozy brew. Look at Stone's site and you'll find one session beer. (And for session beers I go with Lew Bryson – 4.5% ABV or less.) One.
On this last point, I notice new trend
in craft brewing - India Session Ales. Koch is happy to rip on MBA guys looking for trends but I'll bet a dollar to a doughnut that the existence of these ISAs is all about trends. It has "India" in the name! It's related to the IPA! "Hey, fed up with imperial IPAs or just not in the mood for a 'regular' IPA? Let us remove some of the alcohol for you." Bam! Instant new trend and respect from the Beer Advocate crowd.
I had an ISA over the weekend – Central Waters' Hop Rise. It was pretty tasty but I have to say that I'm not sure if very hoppy beers are sessionable for me. A lower ABV is certainly a big part of the equation but I just can't take that many IBUs in a session.
In Herr Koch's honor, I made a radler last week on a hot day. I used Capital's Lake House and the lemon variety of Grown-Up Soda. GUS' sodas are much less sweet than your run-of-the-mill Coke and Pepsi products and have a nice dry flavor. From what I've read, radlers in Germany are made with soda akin to this stuff as opposed to the Teutonic equivalent of 7-Up.
The result was a very refreshing drink on a hot spring day of 85 degrees or so. I enjoyed every sip which had the dry tartness of the soda sitting next to the balanced malt & hops flavors in perfect harmony. Not too sweet, my tongue wasn't attacked by hops, and it was low in alcohol.