Oct. 26, 2011 - Issue #836: Winter Guide 2011
Our beer guy's friends talked him into it
Stiegl Brauerei, Salzburg, Austria
$2.99 for 330 ml bottle
One of the things about being a beer guy about town is that you develop friendships with other beer people. That is natural—people are often drawn to those with similar interests. And as mutual beer fans, we often share informal reviews, debate the merits of various beer and swap new finds. I appreciate hearing other views and learning of something new in town I haven't tried.
This summer a few different people, completely independently of each other, mentioned an odd new beer and suggested I try it. I was hesitant, for the primary reason it is a fruit beer, a style of which I am not a huge fan. More accurately, this beer is a shandy—a blend of beer and fruit juice—which really increased my skepticism. Shandies are normally designed for people who want Mike's Hard more than beer. However, there is no questioning how refreshing they can be on a hot summer day. So, trusting my friends, I picked up a bottle. The beer is Stiegl Radler from Austria, a lager blended with grapefruit juice.
It presents with a hazy, pale white-straw colour. The head barely appears and offers only a wimpy white ring. The aroma is all grapefruit. I am not exaggerating. It comes across with a sharp, tangy, sour-citrus character that is unmistakable as grapefruit. Lingering backstage is a touch of pilsner malt. The aroma makes me a bit nervous, I must admit.
The flavour presents differently than expected. A light fruit sweetness at first, with some wheat and sparkling soda. The grapefruit is more subdued, offering up a generic citrus sharpness to accent the sugary sweetness of the beer. It re-asserts itself in the linger, providing that classic dry bitter-sweet aftertaste.
I detected all that, but the thing I mostly thought about as I sipped it? Mountain Dew. Yes, it tastes frighteningly like Mountain Dew to me. Sugar sweetness with a dash of citrus sharpness. Now, Mountain Dew uses orange, rather than grapefruit, for its citrus kick, but I tell you this is its doppelganger.
I shouldn't be too surprised. That is basically what a shandy is—soda pop with a bit of alcohol. And I do mean a bit. Stiegl Radler clocks in at only 2.5 percent, which means you are basically drinking not much more than pop. However, that clearly adds to its hot day quotient.
I can't say I enjoyed it, but I will admit to being fascinated by it. It does a great job of what it wants to do. It is light, refreshing, tart and sweet and truly unique. I suspect my friends were commenting on it for the same reasons I am intrigued by it. It is something of a conversation starter.
Just don't ask me to drink another bottle. V
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