You remember the craze back in the 90s where “Christmas in July” seemed to happen every year in every office and at every department store and along the aisles of every pharmacy for no apparent reason other than it being a trend? While I’m sure this still happens, most times people indulge in seasonal swap-outs for the sake of commercial grace it seems less and less to be as direct and overt as I remember it being in the past. Perhaps I’m just getting old and paying less attention, though.
At any rate, the beer world is not immune from this trend and here before me I have a style of beverage usually associated with hot summer days and lawn maintenance, or at least the view from the porch while the landscaping crews handle what you used to do for yourself, for you. Here we have a shandy. For those who may have forgotten or just didn’t know, a shandy is effectively a wheat beer or “weiss” beer that has been effectively cut with some kind of juice. Typically this is lemonade, making for the standard shandy or “radler,” which is a summertime favorite of many. But here, we have something a bit different.
Here we have a shandy that, rather than trying to seem like the old timey hard lemonade drinks that real adults drank before the advent of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, this instead seems to want to be part of your holiday table, incorporating elements of ginger and cranberry right into what is an aptly tangy style of light beer. Pouring with an amber hue that is slightly hazy it produces a respectable and dense foam head which lingers low on the top after the initial burst of bubbles. To the nose, this beer smells…well, honestly nothing like beer as the scents of cranberry and ginger override whatever yeasty or wheaty elements may be underlying and yet still in play.
This, unsurprisingly translates directly into the sip where a similar dynamic is played out between the three main flavor profiles on display. With the cranberry just slightly dominating the nose, the opening notes in this are those of the ginger, which working alongside the lighter wheat body of the base style itself, sort of open up the doors for the punchier and slightly tart cranberry infusion to make its palate debut. Unsurprisingly, it tastes…well, like cranberry. This being a flavor most if not all people are at least familiar with, I don’t really have to say very much to bring some memory of cranberry flavor to mind.
However here with the ginger and even the wheat base, the beer is one which sort of begs if not outright demands a place at a holiday dinner. There you’ll have your ham or turkey, your greens, probably some corn perhaps and then cranberry sauce. Now I could just be assuming as I’ve rarely done home holiday meals myself, but even in the flavor and the basic aesthetic of this beer, holidays with the family just seems an apt place for it.
It’s even a session ale as it comes in at a mere 4.2% abv, meaning that when grandpa or old uncle Bucky decides to start weighing in on the election or the state of young people these days, they’ll likely retain enough self control to only mildly infuriate aunt Debbie who has a liberal arts degree that would beg to differ with them. Again, really glad I don’t do holiday dinners.
But for what its worth, this is a tasty, easy sipping and flavor rich shandy that given the size and scale of the brewery likely won’t run you too much to pick up, nor by way of alcohol, cost you too much in the way of familial relations.
So to Leinenkugel, to holiday beers and their ability to make the season bearable, as well as to you, I say as always…
While the brewery may have provided the product mentioned above for free, I was not required to write a positive review, I did not receive any monetary compensation, and the honest opinions I have expressed are my own.
Nicholas Goroff is an actor, writer and craft beer reviewer at EveryJoe.com. Certified as a Cicerone beer server, he is working towards obtaining certification as a beer judge while employed at Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett, NH. When not reviewing beer, wine and spirits, he is typically writing political essays, screenplays and short fiction. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
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