There’s a reason beer cocktails are centuries-old. As a cocktail ingredient, beer brings carbonation, balance, flavor, color, and fun!

beer cocktails radlers shandies

Perhaps the simplest of beer cocktails, radlers and shandies — fresh beer mixed with nonalcoholic soda or juice — are a refreshing way to expand beer’s possibilities. Photo by Mars Vilaubi, excerpted from Tasting Beer, 2nd Edition.

Why beer cocktails? First and foremost, they taste good. In addition, they expand the range of beer’s possibilities and can be especially useful in those places that have limited beer variety. Just as spirits cocktails are hot these days because of their creativity, house-made authenticity, and fascinating combinations of flavors, beer cocktails are fun and fresh and bring creativity customized for the mood and the moment.

Beer cocktails go back centuries. The very first beers may have been a cocktail mix of sorts. Chemical evidence from the tomb of the legendary King Midas has shown barley, grapes, and honey all in the same pot, a mix that anthropologist Patrick McGovern has dubbed “Neolithic grog.” It’s likely it also contained infusions of herbs and spices. Since the very beginning it’s been human nature to want to mix things up and try out all the possibilities in the search for interesting flavors — especially in our drinks.

Beer cocktails may be simple blends of two or more different beers or straightforward mixes with soda or lemonade designed to do little more than quench one’s thirst. At the more elaborate end, they may incorporate artisanal spirits, handmade bitters and syrups, and surprising garnishes.

As a cocktail ingredient, beer can bring many things. Its carbonation can liven things up and make the drink more aromatic, adding volume that can reduce the booziness of a drink. Beer’s bitterness can offset sweetness and improve balance just as bitters or amaro liqueurs do. Its great range of color can add visual appeal or set a mood. Specialty beers can add fruit, spices, oaky aged flavors, and more.

Mix ’n’ Match Breakfast Cocktails List

Mix n Match Breakfast Beer Cocktails

These ingredients are pretty friendly to each other. Just pick one from each of the first three columns, mix, add a garnish, and serve. Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong. Photo by Mars Vilaubi, excerpted from Tasting Beer, 2nd Edition.

Radlers, Shandies, and Spiked Beers

These are simple drinks: just fresh beer mixed with a nonalcoholic soda or fruit drink. “Shandy” is an English term for any mix of beer and nonalcoholic soda or juice, and in German, Biermischgetränke indicates the same idea. Shandy traditionally was lemonade blended with bitter but now may be made with lager, often with carbonated lemonade or citrus soda. The French know it by the name panaché.

Legend has it that radler — the German name for “cyclist” — was invented at a Munich tavern in 1922 that ran short on beer when the cycling club stopped by. It certainly answers that need, but the mix, usually about 50/50, probably existed earlier.

There are endless variations of beer and juice or soda: hefeweizen and orange juice is frühstuck Weisse; Düsseldorfer Altbier and cola is a “diesel,” although similar drinks with different beers are known by that name and others (krefelder, colaweizen, brummbru, greifswalder, mazout, and fir tree) elsewhere in Europe; a shandygaff is a nineteenth-century mixture of beer and ginger beer.

These classics are not high culinary art, but they serve their refreshing purpose well. There’s no reason not to branch off and try your own. Here are just a few ideas to get your juices flowing.

Creative Radlers/Shandies

Passion fruit juice + blonde weizenbock

Guanabana + Belgian witbier

Mango nectar + saison

Pear juice + Belgian tripel

Tamarindo soda + IPA

Cherry juice + oatmeal stout

Pomegranate juice + red rye ale

Spiked Beers: Chelada and Michelada

Spiked beers called chelada and michelada are widespread in much of Mexico, although the terminology changes confusingly. Classically, a chelada always contains lager, lime, and salt, sometimes with a little chile; a michelada adds flavorings such as chile sauce, Maggi (an umami-rich vegetable sauce), and Worcestershire sauce, but the terms vary quite a bit. A version with clam juice is also popular, and all have a reputation as a hangover cure. Chile-and-lime-flavored salt, perfect for spicing things up or rimming the glass, is sold in supermercados; a popular brand is Tajín. Cheladas work best with lighter-bodied Mexican lagers, so if you’re using craft beers, make sure they’re not too heavy or strongly flavored. Witbier can work nicely but is obviously not traditional. Recipes from my partner from Monterrey, Champi Garza, follow, along with his beer recommendations.

Chelada

Ingredients

  • Pinch of salt, plus more for rimming glass
  • Pinch of Tajín (optional)
  • 1–1½ large Persian limes or 2–3 key limes (limon agrio), juiced
  • 1 12-oz beer (such as Dos Equis Dark Lager or Victoria)
  • Ice cubes

Directions

  1. Rim a large glass with salt or Tajín chile mix. Juice the limes into the glass. Add the salt and Tajín, if using, and mix well. Add the beer and ice, mix, and enjoy.

Michelada

Ingredients

  • Pinch of salt, plus more for rimming glass
  • Pinch of Tajín (optional)
  • 1–1½ large Persian limes or 2–3 key limes (limon agrio), juiced
  • 2 short shakes of Maggi sauce
  • 4 long shakes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 short shake of Tabasco (or more)
  • 1 12-oz beer (such as Dos Equis Dark Lager or Victoria)
  • Ice cubes

Directions

  1. Rim a large glass with salt or Tajín chile mix. Juice the limes into the glass. Add the Maggi sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, salt, and Tajin, if using, and mix well. Add the beer and ice, mix, and enjoy.

Text and recipes excerpted from Tasting Beer, 2nd Edition © 2009,2017 by Randy Mosher. All rights reserved.

Randy Mosher

Randy Mosher is a writer, lecturer, and creative consultant on beer and brewing worldwide. He is the author of Tasting BeerBeer For All Seasons, Radical Brewing,See Bio

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Tasting Beer, 2nd Edition

by Randy Mosher , Ray Daniels and Sam Calagione

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