Restaurant News & Reviews

Just in time for summer: Refreshing radlers and shandies are on tap at area breweries

The Unknown Brewing Co. recently released Sunshine Over Phuket, a dry-hopped radler brewed with ruby red grapefruits.
The Unknown Brewing Co. recently released Sunshine Over Phuket, a dry-hopped radler brewed with ruby red grapefruits. The Unknown Brewing Co.

Anyone cycling the Stewart Creek Greenway this Saturday will be able to stop at Blue Blaze Brewing for an authentic experience at the intersection of bicycling and beer.

The radler, a word that translates as “cyclist” in German, is a refreshing and low-alcohol blend of beer (usually a lager) with fruit soda or juice. In celebration of its third anniversary, Blue Blaze Brewing will tap a new radler made with raspberry-lemonade soda this Saturday.

“From our perspective, shandies and radlers come from English and German traditions,” says founder Craig Nunn. “The German tradition is based in cycling, so it’s just another extension of who we are and what we do.”

Shandies are close cousins to radlers, most often using lemonade as their blended beverage of choice. Blue Blaze Brewing has brewed a grapefruit radler in past year’s, and the new radler is a blend of the brewery’s Yellow Blazer Kölsch and a raspberry-lemonade soda that it made specifically for the blend.

“They’re great heat and summer beers,” Nunn says. “They’re fun, they’re light and they’re super refreshing.”

While cycling the greenway and stopping for a radler or two would be an appropriate nod to tradition, Blue Blaze Brewing isn’t the only one to offer the style. Other radlers and shandies are arriving just in time to help quench the thirst of cyclists (or anyone else trying to cope with this record heat).

The Unknown Brewing Co. recently released Sunshine Over Phuket, a 4 percent ABV radler brewed with ruby red grapefruits. Fruit is common in radlers and shandies, but Unknown put its own spin on the beer by dry-hopping the radler to amplify some of those citrusy notes.

“What makes ours different is that we’ve got grapefruit,” says Brad Shell, founder of The Unknown Brewing Co., “but we also said, ‘What if we played with the aromatics of the hops as well?’”

The brewery first brewed the beer in collaboration with Charleston’s Revelry Brewing. The beer was released again a couple weeks ago, and can be found in area bottle shops or at the brewery, where four-packs of the beer are $10.99 each.

The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, which adheres to the Bavarian beer purity law known as the Reinheitsgebot, brews only with water, malt, hops and yeast — but mixes are not verboten after the beer is brewed. The brewery offers a blend of its Captain James Jack Pilsner with Sprite or seltzer.

Two additional Charlotte-area breweries have released shandies this month as well. Concord’s Cabarrus Brewing Co. released its Summer Shandy on draft, and Monroe’s Southern Range Brewing Co. released cans of its Strawberry Shandy.

“We did it last year for the first time and it instantly took off in the taproom,” says Dustin Gatliff, co-founder of Southern Range Brewing Co. “We get a ton of requests for it.”

After the initial small-batch attempt was well-received, Southern Range scaled up to a larger production batch and canned the shandy for the first time last year. The shandy begins life as a blonde ale, which is then blended with lemonade and strawberries after fermentation. Four-packs of the cans are distributed in the Charlotte market, or available at the brewery in Monroe.

And the newly opened Protagonist Clubhouse in NoDa offers a variety of beer cocktails, one of which is a seasonal shandy that takes as its base a sour ale, then adds agave syrup, orange juice, coriander, an orange slice and a sprig of thyme.