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What’s the difference between a Radler and a Shandy?
What makes these terms so confusing is that they are used interchangeably by modern brewers, but traditionally they are technically two different things. Both drinks are a mix of juice and beer, with that beer being either pilsner, lager, or a blonde ale, always in a 50-50 combination. But the juice you choose to use, along with where each drink was originally invented, is where you find the difference.
A Shandy calls for its juice to be lemonade, and only lemonade, if we’re being strict about the rules. A Radler, on the other hand, can be made with a mix of beer and any form of fruit juice. This technicality gets overlooked often, and is why you commonly will find mixes of beer and all types of citrus juices called Shandys, when they really should be called Radlers if the juice being used isn’t lemonade.
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Both drinks were also invented in different locations. The Shandy hails from Great Britain and was invented in the 1850s. There isn’t a lot of documentation as to why it was invented originally, but in modern day, most Brits say it’s perfect for those after-work drinks when you don’t want to get too wankered. The Radler was invented about 70 years later in Bavaria and came out of necessity when beer garden owner Franz Xaver Kugler was running low on beer and was afraid his customers would start to get angry if he ran out. He mixed what he had left with the citrus juice he had on hand, providing his patrons with a beer-like concoction that kept them sloshed and happy instead of tearing his place down when the kegs ran dry.