There would always be weighty enquiries as to what they could have, and it would work out always at cold beef and pickles, or friend ham and eggs and shandy-gaff, two pints of beer and two bottles of ginger beer foaming in a huge round bellied jug. - H.G. Wells, The History of Mr. Polly, 1910
This is the first written description of how a Shandygaff, or a Shandy for short, is made. There are theories that mixing beer with other beverages is a tradition that went back for years, possibly to the reign of King Henry VIII (1509-1547). He used the mixture for medical reasons, most likely adding the ginger flavoring to his beer when he drank it. Carbonated water was not created until the late 18th century, when it was discovered that "fixed air" could be added to standing water to make it sparkle. It was not until the early-19th century that flavors, like ginger, were added to the mix. Most of this exploration of carbonation and ginger flavored beverages was going on in England, who also loved their beer. The pairing was natural and an immediate hit.
1 part beer (Ales are traditional)
1 part ginger beer or other pop
Fill the pint glass half full of your beer of choice. Top off with the ginger beer and serve.
There was quite a bit of debate before I chose to make this cocktail, but I am glad I did. Over time, and as they pumped into each other in America, they two became synonymous. But the ginger beer option adds some spice. Using a fruit juice, like in a Radler, gives you more options for the beer you are using. Soda pop adds carbonation to the mix, and usually a distinctive flavor. This puts some limits on what you can pair. I used Warped Wing's Ermal's Belgian Cream Ale again as a control. In the Radler, the Belgian spices stood out. The ginger beer in the Shandy pushed those notes way back, the beer doing little more than blunting the sharpness of the ginger beer. The ginger beer added carbonation as well, which in this case was a pleasant surprise. In a more carbonated beer, it could be a hot mess. There are plenty of combinations you can explore on your own. Get out there and start drinking.