When originally conceived, the Radler and the Shandy were ways to help people drink longer during the day. They would add the lemonade or carbonated soda to the beer to add flavor as well, but mainly so they were not three sheets to the wind after an hour. The session beer movement of the early 20th century had a similar goal. Over time, beer was mixed with a wider and wider variety of other beverages, from other beers to liquor to tomato juice. The object of mixing with beer was no longer to extend the drinking session, but to add flavor to whichever beer you had chosen for the day. There are many beer and liquor combinations I have witnessed, like a Belgian wheat with orange vodka, or adding Mexican lager to a Margarita. That is where it started. It has really taken off as bartenders made more sophisticated flavor pairings with an ever widening selection of craft beers and spirits.
North of the border, the fine people (or maybe just Kris Osborne) at 80twenty did some explorations of the beer cocktail on their (her?) own. Well, to be fair, she has explored the whole food spectrum, from healthy breakfasts to exquisite desserts. Her approach is healthy and local for eighty percent of what she offers, and the other twenty percent is eat-as-you-want fare. Much of the food she offers is vegetarian and gluten-free, as well as some options for paleo and vegan diets. It is not too hard to figure out where shandys fall. In addition to the shandy I am about to explore, she created a Peachy Mint Shandy you may also consider checking out.
The Maple Bourbon Shandy (by Kris Osborne at 80twenty)
1 oz./ 30 mL maple syrup
2 oz./ 60 mL bourbon
.5 oz./ 15 mL fresh orange juice
4 ds. coffee bitters
12 oz./ 360 mL beer (the used Sam Adams Boston Lager)
Glass: Double Old Fashioned (or something that holds 12 oz.)
Garnish: Orange zest
Makes 2 servings.
Pour the syrup, bourbon, orange juice, and bitters in a mixing tin. Add ice, then shake until the mixture is cold. Pour into the Old Fashioned glass over fresh ice, and top off with beer. Stir gently. Twist the orange zest over the cocktail, add it and serve.
Be careful with this one, ladies and gents. It is dangerously easy to drink. I found myself most of the way through one before I knew it. Stick with the lager for this one, even if you want to play with flavors. The bourbon and rich syrup notes in the cocktail will get bulldozed if you reach for something seasonally flavored or a hoppy IPA. I can also see a seasonal Märzen or every day porter working with this flavor profile. Again, nothing with a crazy flavors. Then you just relax with your favorite sport on the television and hope they don't make you spill your drink. Or cry in it.