The Original Session Beer: Four Great Summer Shandies

Credit: Photograph by Nigel Cox

Beer purists view the shandy, a beer-and-ginger-ale cocktail from 19th-century England, as a crass concoction — a cheap way to water down good brew. Our take? Exactly! It's summer. You want a drink that goes down easy before noon, when you're lashing your cooler to an inner tube. Thankfully, the craft world is now turning its attention to lighter, less-alcoholic brews with a refreshing citrusy kick. As well as producing bottled shandies and radlers, which use flavored sodas instead of ginger ale, many brewers are devising IPAs with a shot of grapefruit juice to amplify the hops' natural pop. Sure, some still taste like liquid candy. But some, like the four below, are great — and perhaps the only reason to own a pair of those bottle-opening flip-flops.

Stiegl Grapefruit Radler
Stiegl makes a 40-60 blend of its Goldbräu lager and grapefruit soda. The aroma is bright, and the body is so crisp that you may forget you're drinking beer.

Leinenkugel's Grapefruit Shandy
Leinenkugel's saw the potential of the beer cocktail a decade ago, and its Grapefruit Shandy is its most refined yet, with a mild sweetness and balanced finish.

Widmer Hefe Shandy
Widmer's Hefeweizen is the original American-style wheat beer, and the Portland, Oregon, brewery adapted it for summer with Lemondrop hops, which add a citrus bite.

Boulevard Ginger Lemon Radler
Kansas City's Boulevard has a talent for refreshing brews, and the ginger and lemon juice in this wheat-beer-based radler bring an extra level of zing.

The Homemade Radler
The radler is a relatively foolproof beverage, and it's worth experimenting by mixing various flavors of soda into your favorite beer. The traditional recipe calls for a 50-50 blend of a lager that's mild on hops, such as a Session Lager, and grapefruit or lemon soda, like Sanpellegrino Limonata. To get adventurous, try a crisp but funky style like a German Berliner weisse or gose as the beer base. You can even add an ounce of aromatic gin along with the soda.