Radler Beer - The Legend, the Latest and a Challenge for You!
As a German beer lover, how well do you know your Radler (aka Shandy)? Sandip ‘Sandy’ Patidar, Founder & MD of Germandrinks.co.uk, shares the legend behind Radler’s original creation, looks at its contemporary counterparts, and sets you a challenge…
The legend of Radler beer
Once upon a time, in the small town of Deisenhofen…
Legends around the creation and naming of Radler are debated by German beer fans and historians to this day. The most popular features 13,000 cyclists – and the case for its authenticity probably holds more water (or lemonade!) than most.
Back in 1922, professional cyclists raced for championship trophies and enthusiasts from all walks of life rode picturesque cycling trails across Germany. By June that year, ‘the great cycling boom of the roaring twenties’ was in full swing and Deisenhofen innkeeper Franz Kugler, by accident or design, was ideally placed to capitalise on it.
Legend has it that Kugler created the bicycle trail through the woods from nearby Munich directly to his inn (clever!), or it simply came into being as a popular ride for cyclists (probably closer to the truth). Either way, on that fateful June day it is said that 13,000 cyclists rocked up at the Kugler Alm pub. And they were thirsty!
The cyclists ordered beer, lots of it, and Kugler soon found himself running low on stock. Keen to avoid the wrath of thousands of customers who’d pedalled a long way for refreshment and good cheer, Kluger had to think on his feet. What if he blended his remaining beer with his plentiful stock of lemonade? He devised a 50/50 ratio of beer to lemonade and named it ‘Radlermass’, ‘Cyclist litre’. Instantly creating a new product and marketing campaign!
That day, Kugler not only quenched the thirst of 13,000 cyclists, but he also avoided running out of beer and sold all of his less-popular lemonade too.
The cyclists loved their ‘Radlermass’ and soon came to realise that, at around 2.5% abv, they could drink more and cycle further. The name was later shortened to ‘Radler’ and the drink remains popular across Germany to this day, and not only among cyclists (although they still love it!).
Kugler is widely considered to be the originator of the name ‘Radler’, however, the idea of beer mixed with fruit soda dates back to documents from 1912 in Germany, a decade before those 13,000 cyclists arrived at his inn.
Not to mention, ‘Shandygaff’ (which inspired Shandy), an old English name for beer mixed with ginger ale or ginger beer, dates back even further to 1853 - the year in which it’s mentioned in the works of both Charles Dickens and H.G. Wells. But that’s another story.
So, did Kugler create the drink and the name, or only the name? Either way, his contribution to Radler beer history is legendary.
What’s happening with Radler beer today?
Since 1922 (or thereabouts), Radler beer has grown in popularity across Germany, Europe, the UK and as far afield as the USA and Canada. Regional and international variations abound, so knowing what a true Radler beer actually is can be confusing.
Generally, the term ‘Radler’ or ‘Radler beer’ refers to a wide range of drinks that blend German beer (often lager or wheat beer) with citrus fruit soda (a custom mix of lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit) or just traditional lemonade.
Other defining features of a Radler beer include-
- A lower ABV than beer - usually at around 2.5%, but this can increase to 4.5% depending on the strength of the beer used and/or the ratio of beer to soda
- The ‘correct’ ratio of beer to soda – Radler often contains a 70/30 beer to soda mix, but this varies. Most consider a 50/50 mix to be the minimum requirement to be known as a ‘Radler’
Most importantly, a good Radler should be light, easy to drink and deliver a refreshing citrus fruit soda kick without overwhelming the beautiful flavours and aromas of its ‘base’ beer. It should also instantly quench the thirst on a summer’s day (especially following a cycle ride).
The Master Brewers at Rothaus have crafted both traditional and highly contemporary Radler beers…
Made with a blend of naturally cloudy Rothaus Black Forest Maidle Kellerbier (cellar beer) and a lemon and lime soda specially created in-house, Rothaus Radlerzäpfle is considered by connoisseurs to be the quintessential German Radler beer. Franz Kugler himself would most certainly approve!
Like the 13,000 cyclists back in 1922, contemporary beer drinkers appreciate low alcohol options - but what would the 13,000 have made of an alcohol free Radler? They almost certainly would have cycled even further (and more conscientiously too).
With today’s fast-moving schedules and myriad leisure pursuits, alcohol free is often the ideal choice. That’s why Rothaus Natur Radler Lemon 0.0% delivers authentic German beer flavours and aromas in a new and extra-refreshing way.
To do so, Rothaus de-alcoholised their traditional Black Forest Maidle Kellerbier and blended it with a citrus (lemon and orange) fruit soda of their own creation, they also ingeniously added hints of apple and lemongrass.
The challenge - create your own Radler beer!
Have Franz Kugler and the Master Brewers at Rothaus inspired you to create your own Radler beer?
If so, we have a challenge for you…
It’s easy to make a Radler, but difficult to make a great Radler – but with patience, experimentation and tasting (and a little luck), you could create a Radler even the Master Brewers at Rothaus would appreciate.
So, DO try this at home-
- Select a lightly-coloured German beer or lager. One of your favourite Pilsners would be a great place to start. Maybe try a wheat beer next. Just make sure it’s cold.
- Select one of your favourite citrus sodas. Lemon, lime or grapefruit-based ones work well. Perhaps you could even create your own.
- Choose your ratio. Will you try a 70/30 or 50/50 blend of beer and soda, or create your own ratio? Remember, less than 50% German beer and you can’t really call your drink a Radler (we won’t tell though!)
- Carefully pour the beer or lager into a tall, slim glass (at a 45-degree angle of course) up to your chosen ratio. (At this point, is the glass half full or half empty? If it’s a Radler, it’s half full.)
- Add your chosen citrus fruit soda and resist the temptation to stir! (There’s a slight possibility of froth overload.)
- Taste and discern the flavours and aromas coming through. Are the characteristics of the German beer recognisable? Is the Radler too sweet overall? Does the citrus fruit soda overwhelm the beer, or vice-versa?
Congratulations, you’ve now created your very own Radler!
Whether or not it’s Rothaus-worthy, you’ve made a refreshing low alcohol, low calorie drink and you’re on your way to perfecting it.
It’s Radler beer time!
There’s always time to share a Radler and some legendary tales with family and friends. Prost, Franz!