Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

20 June, 2016

One From the Vine: Calm Radler by Goose Island Beer Company



Now that the temperatures outside have begun to resemble Hades, I tend to look for lighter brews and so often indulge in radlers (and shandies too). The radler is, to my mind, a 50/50isih mix of a light lager and citrus-flavored soda. The legend has it that one Franz Xaver Kugler, a Bavarian innkeeper was beset upon by a horde of bicyclists one June day in 1922 and he began to cut his bier with lemon soda to quench the thirsts of the sweaty, unwashed masses. The German Beer Institute says of the incident, "...some 13,000 cyclists descended upon the Kugleralm and demanded beer. They almost depleted Franz Xaver's stock of brew."

If 13,000 thirsty cyclists couldn't drink Herr Kugler out of bier – even cutting it with soda – just how much bier did this guy have on hand? We're talking the population of Stoughton. He must have had a billion hectoliters. This guy could literally have supplied an army with bier.

Ever since Leinenkugel hit the jackpot with Summer Shandy, many microbrewers have jumped on the bandwagon. I recall asking bartenders at the High Noon and Glass Nickel to mix me a radler on hot summer days 4-5 years ago and was met with a blank look each time. My guess is that things are different today and that the radler is not quite the unknown quantity that it was at that time.

The problem is that American brewers tend to add some flavoring to a light beer whether it be a helles lager or a wheat ale and call it a shandy or radler. (To me, a shandy is beer with ginger beer.) But you mix a shandy/radler, you don't brew it – like a beer cocktail. If your shandy/radler is 4%+ A.B.V. and you have "natural flavor", you're doing it wrong.

The gold standard for radlers to my taste is Stiegl's Grapefruit Radler. It is light, fizzy, and has a great balance of grainy lager goodness and tart-sweet grapefruit soda. And it's 2% A.B.V.

Which brings me to Goose Island's Calm Radler. Calm Radler is the second beer in Goose Island's Fulton & Wood series of limited edition brews this year. (To be bottled?) The first was the excellent Rasselbock. Now, it comes in at a very radler-like 3.0% A.B.V. but it is described as a wheat ale with "natural flavors" added. In this case there is cucumber, mint, and lime. Quite a variation on the traditional radler.

Calm poured a slightly hazy light yellow. I suppose the haze comes from the wheat. Sadly my glass was again afflicted with dishwasheritis or some such thing because bubbles again clung to the side of my glass. The pisser is that I washed it by hand in an apparently vain attempt to avoid this. Curses! Foiled!

I got a medium-sized head that was pure white and faded quickly. In addition to the accursed bubbles on the side of my glass, there were quite a few further in making their way up.

After having had a cucumber Kölsch from Flat12 Bierwerks in Indy a few years back at the Great Taste, I became of fan of cucumber in beer. Here the aroma was of cucumber, mint, and lime and in that order of strength. It certainly smelled refreshing.

As on the nose, so in the taste. Calm has a big cucumber taste while the mint was no slouch either. And the lime trailed in a rather distant third. It was nice'n'fizzy with a soda-like level of carbonation. But it was also endowed with a lot of sweetness – to the point of being cloying. There was so much sugar here that what must have been a very light beer ended up with a medium body.

Calm finished with the sweetness deciding not to go anywhere and instead keep a slowly fading mix of cucumber and mint company. There was no Schaumhaftvermoegen.

The bottle said that there were "hints" of cucumber, mint, and lime. While the lime have been available in hints, the cucumber and mint most certainly were not. They were not accents - they were up front and in your face. I am not a huge fan of mint, but it did complement the cucumber well. It also helps that all of these flavors tasted fairly fresh and real as opposed to some kind of extract. But there is just too much sweetness here. Drink this stuff very cold to cut down on the syrupy taste.

Junk food pairing: Pair Calm Radler with some junk food from the Orient like an Oriental/Asian snack mix. The puffed rice bits will keep your mouth from being mired down in heavy textures while the flecks of seaweed go well with the mint. Another option is wasabi/soy sauce almonds. The wasabi is sharp enough to cut through the sugar while the soy adds a hearty dose of umami.

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|| Palmer, 8:16 AM

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