Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Radler Season

If you're a craft brewery and are in the process of creating your first radler, and you haven't yet come up with a name, I have two words for you.

Sabre Radler.

You're welcome.

I performed a search of this name on Untappd, and it doesn't exist. For me, it was a no-brainer: a clean-tasting, beer and citrus fruit beverage that cuts through your thirst. If you do decide to use the name, all I expect in return is to be one of the first that gets to try it. Okay?

I first tried a radler last fall, and I really liked the sweet grapefruit flavours. I shared it with my wife, who isn't a big beer fan, and she was hooked. She drinks them fairly often now, and, to help her, I have sought out different brands and styles, hoping that she would settle on a favourite.

And, for me, not being able to resist a taste test, was all over the radlers that are available at the LCBO.

I chose five radlers: two that are European and three that are from Ontario, one of them being from right here in Ottawa. And I was pleasantly surprised that they each had a distinct characteristic.

Let's examine them in the order in which I drank them.
Stiegl Salzburger Grapefruit Radler (2.5% ABV)
Stieglbrauerei Zu Salzberg
Salzberg, Austria
Appearance: a murky orange-grapefruit yellow with a fizzy white head that settles quickly to nothing. It looks exactly like a sparkling grapefruit juice.

Nose: candied grapefruit.

Palate: it tastes exactly like a sparkling grapefruit juice. Highly effervescent, there is no trace of alcohol—I could drink this radler for breakfast. It's sweet, but not cloyingly so. It's fresh and delightful.

Overall impression: working in the garden on a hot day, I would prefer to drink this beverage over an ice-cold glass of lemonade. My 14-year-old daughter took a sip from my glass, as we sat on our front porch (the prefect place to enjoy this radler), and she loved it.

I told her that if she was ever going to raid my beer cellar, that she should take one of these over one of my stored ales. At 2.5% alcohol, she would never get wasted.

(I am in no way promoting under-aged drinking, and I made that clear to her.)

Beer O'Clock rating: 4.5
Radler—Flavoured Light Beer (3% ABV)
Kichesippi Beer Company
Ottawa ON
Appearance: unfiltered orange-yellow, with lots of effervescence, a bubbly, white foam head that vanishes quickly.

Nose: pear and applesauce.

Palate: your tastebuds are immediately met with barley and a light, candied orange-grapefruit, with a beer flavour that is reminiscent of a pale ale. There is a light finish with barley overtones.

Overall impression: I like that you can actually taste the beer and that the sweetness is at a minimum, but the fruit tastes artificial—grapefruit soda and concentrated grapefruit, plus added flavour, do not seem natural for this special beverage.

I think that the connection between the invention of the radler and the Ottawa Bicycle Club, as written on the side of the can, is a huge stretch, but hey, I'd welcome a cold radler like this after a long bike ride (and, being a member of that bike club, I appreciated the shout out).

Beer O'Clock rating: 2.5
Sweetwater Squeeze Blood Orange Radler (3.8% ABV)
Amsterdam Brewery
Toronto, ON
Appearance: pinkish orange juice with soda water and a white head that vanished as soon as it was poured. Effervescent on the pour but settles right down in minutes.

Nose: oranges and a slightly grass and malty aroma.

Palate: grassy ale with orange on the finish. A malty body—you can clearly taste the beer, and there is a touch of yeast in the mouth.

Overall impression: if you want beer to stand out from the fruit juice, this is a good choice.

Made with home-made soda and blood orange juice, this radler is a nice variation and a good summer thirst-quencher.

Beer O'Clock rating: 3.5
Schöfferhofer Grapefruit Wheat Beer Mix (2.5% ABV)
Schöfferhofer Welzenbier GmbH
Frankfurt, Germany
Appearance: apricot-pink grapefruit with a foamy-white head that leaves a thin lace around the miniscus.

Nose: ruby-red grapefruit.

Palate: intense grapefruit. Sweet, but not cloying, like a sparkling grapefruit soda. A bit of tartness comes out in the finish.

Overall impression: refreshing as a soda but hard to imagine as a form of beer, as there is neither an ale flavour nor a detection of any alcohol.

I would happily take this radler over a lemonade when I'm working in the garden on a hot summer day. It figures that the Germans, who invented the radler, would know how to perfect it.

Beer O'Clock rating: 4
Waterloo Grapefruit Radler (3.1% ABV)
Waterloo Brewing Company
Kitchener, ON
Appearance: unfiltered, deep gold. Effervescent (moreso than the other five radlers) with a white foam that vanishes immediately.

Nose: candied grapefruit.

Palate: sweet grapefruit soda—possibly the sweetest of the bunch. Clean and refreshing, with no discernible beer flavour.

Overall impression: again, this radler is a good substitute for lemonade. I say that a lot because lemonade has been my go-to beverage when I'm working up a sweat, mowing the lawn or pulling weeds. But I think that this summer, I'll keep radlers in the fridge to have when I work up a sweat on my property.

Beer O'Clock rating: 3.5

So, which of the radlers did I like the most?

I did like them all, and I did like how they were all distinct. From a not-so sweet Austrian radler, to a strong barley ale flavour; from a well-balanced, beer-fruit beverage, to a fruit soda. They all have qualities that I like, but if I'm going to stock my fridge over the summer, I think I'd lean more toward the Stiegl radler as a not-so sweet thirst-quencher. I also liked the Amsterdam radler for its unique blood-orange blend and its ale flavours. And I did like the Schöfferhofer as an alternative to lemonade or soda.

If you haven't had a radler, make it something that you do this summer.

And keep your eye out for a Sabre Radler. You'll know who suggested the name. Cheers!

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