This week’s Canada’s Craft Beer post comes from our Western Canada craft beer guy, Joe Wiebe. Joe introduces us to Radlers this week - a great refreshing summertime beverage!
My first encounter with a Radler occurred when I was in Munich for Oktoberfest in 2011. One afternoon, two buddies and I were enjoying the unseasonably warm weather at a lakeside biergarten. Hughe got up to get a refill and returned with a curiously yellow-tinged beer called a Radler. Surprised by the flavour, he passed it around for us to try—it tasted like 7-Up mixed with lager. It was quite good, and especially refreshing in the hot sun.
It turns out that Radlers have been a popular summer beverage in Germany for a century. A half-and-half mix of lager and fruit juice, they are seen as a great low-alcohol, thirst-quenching option while enjoying outdoor activities—indeed, “Radler” means cyclist in German.
Last spring, I noticed the arrival of tall cans of Grapefruit Radler from Austria’s Stiegl Brewery in the B.C. market. Sold by the single can for about $3, it was a big hit that summer; I heard stories from liquor store employees of customers buying entire flats of 24 cans. I know I bought a few for the camping cooler and patio consumption. Apparently, a lemon version called Zitrone is available on tap at the Craft Beer Market restaurants in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, but I haven’t had a chance to sample it.
A few B.C. breweries caught the bug and began Radlers earlier this year. To help promote Victoria Beer Week (of which I am a co-founder) we asked the Moon Under Water Brewpub to make one for us to pour at special events like V.I.C. Fest and Phillips Brewing’s HOPoxia. Most people we served it to had no idea what a Radler was, and it was very interesting to see their reactions once they tried it. Almost everybody loved it, and in many cases, they returned for more later. I find Radlers act as a nice palate-cleanser and a general refresher when I feel “beered out,” a common occurrence at beer festivals where I might be trying (too) many (small) samples of different beers.
Parallel 49 Tricycle Radler
3.5% ABV | Available: BC & Alberta
Vancouver’s ever-cheeky Parallel 49 Brewing calls its version Tricycle. It’s actually a little stronger than the typical Radler at 3.5% ABV because the P49 folks found the 50-50 mix a bit too sweet. Once you get over its startling pink colour, you’ll be struck by how tasty and refreshing it is.
Tree Brewing Grapefruit Radler
2.5% ABV | Available: BC & Alberta
The Grapefruit Radler from Kelowna’s Tree Brewing is not hot pink like Parallel 49’s. It is also a bit fizzier and slightly sweeter, making it perhaps even more refreshing under the hot sun. Out of the two this one tastes more like grapefruit juice while the Tricycle has more lager character so between the two everyone should be able to find one you prefer over the other.
Joe Wiebe, the Thirsty Writer, is one of Canada’s busiest beer writers. Based in Victoria, he has followed British Columbia’s craft beer scene closely for more than 20 years. His book, Craft Beer Revolution: The Insider’s Guide to B.C. Breweries, was a B.C. bestseller for 2013. He hosts beer tastings/seminars and has appeared on television and radio as a craft beer expert. A freelancer for 15 years, he has written about craft beer for a wide variety of magazines, newspapers and websites. Visit www.thirstywriter.com and follow him on twitter at @ThirstyWriter.