When you’re day drinking this summer, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more appropriate beverage to sip on than the light, fruity and effervescent radler.
The beer blended with fruit juice or soda has a long history in Europe, but it’s getting new life in America, too, where we’ve been emulating Old World styles with our own fresh takes. This summer, one local brewery is giving its version of the radler a special Texas twist.
Uncle Billy’s has recently released the Texas Ruby Red Radler as one of its summer seasonals, and as the name suggests, the beer — a pale lager now available on draft and in 12 oz. cans across Texas — gets much of its flavor from grapefruit grown in the Rio Grande Valley.
The result is a 3.7 percent ABV beer that bursts with bright citrus without going overboard on the fruitiness. The delicate noble hops and the radler’s crisp, clean profile balance the sweet ruby red juice that was added fresh into the brew. I absolutely love it: This is the beer I am going to drink all summer.
Before Uncle Billy’s version, the concept of a radler — half beer, half soda — seemed somewhat strange to me. The German-born radler, as well as its nearly identical English cousin the shandy, is a European tradition that can be traced back almost a century, so it’s obviously a drink people love. But why would I want to mix another beverage with my beer?
Maybe, just maybe, the British and German beer drinkers who came up with the idea of shandies and radlers, respectively, were onto something.
Shandies have been around since the mid-18th century, when they were known as an old British term called "shandy gaffs" and were served as a combination of beer and ginger ale, according to Eater. Radlers didn’t come along until 1922, the clever invention of a Bavarian innkeeper who was running low on beer and decided to combine it with the lemon soda no one was drinking at his tavern.
It was called a radler as a nod to the thirsty patrons consuming the half-beer, half-soda blend. Now, Uncle Billy’s Texas Ruby Red Radler is also designed as "a quaffable beer to be enjoyed after cycling or other sports," Uncle Billy’s managing partner, Bob Leggett, said — as the playful can design, featuring the image of William "Billy" Barton on a penny-farthing bicycle, indicates.
Barton was an early Austinite for whom both the brewpub and the famous nearby Barton Springs are named for, and he sadly died before the low-alcohol, easy-drinking shandy could make its way across the Atlantic Ocean.
Thankfully, we can enjoy the radler all we want this summer thanks to Uncle Billy’s and other breweries like St. Elmo Brewing, which recently released its Pomelo Grapefruit Radler on draft at its South Austin taproom.