By Andy Phelps
If you're on the lookout for refreshment this summer, considering how dry, hot and sunny it's been so far, look no further than the shandy! Shandies are alcoholic beverages, usually beer, that are combined with real fruit juices to produce drinkable, spirited "cocktails" that are consumed during humid, slogging months. Though many examples of the style bear little resemblance to actual brews, there are some that retain the malty and enjoyable qualities that craft beer nerds so desire. This year, Narragansett has put out a supremely drinkable and surprisingly flavorful beer to compete in this market.
Pairing with Del's Frozen Lemonade, a R.I. hometown favorite, they've seamlessly blended the crisp and tangy lemon ice Del's is known for with the crispness and simple, homey character of their original lager. I know a lot of people who aren't fans of Gansett's flagship beer, but, in combination with the refreshing flavor of lemonade, it's made more interesting. The pour on this has a slightly orange-tinged, pale straw body with a dollop of bone white head sitting on top, though that dissipates to a very small quarter-finger ring over a few minutes' time. The initial scents include wheat-like malt, kind of husky and crackery with a leafy/grassy hop in the back, but from then on there's a lot of bright, punchy lemon. The lemon almost comes across rindlike, actually, though combined with the slightly-sweet scent from the malts, it almost smells like Froot Loops cereal! Indeed, this is very cereal-like on the nose, with a lot of grainy and snappy malt character punching through the lemon base.
This combination is extremely flavorful; the slightly tangy lemonade flavor is really well-balanced by a nice malty backbone that isn't afraid to dry things out a bit as well, though I'd certainly say this is by no means a "dry" beer. It just works a lot better than some sweeter, more artificial flavored shandies such as those from Leinenkugel's et al because there's a real beer note here. In addition, it's clocking in at five percent, so it's also no slouch in the alcohol department. As it warms up, a slight orange-y/tangerine flavor starts peeking out as well, making this much more "citrus" forward. The hop notes on this are enhanced by the lemonade-addition as well, seemingly; I really dig the slight notes of cut grass and herbal elements that make this feel very full-flavored and more complex than a lot of other things in this style. Lemon peel and candied lemons with sweet sugar come through even more as well, as it warms. Carbonation is perfect; bubbly and viscous with good moderation, and it helps that the body is rather full for the style as well, giving a lot of heft to the beer where it could've been a lot more seltzer-like if they felt like cheapening the feel. Luckily, Narragansett nailed this, in my opinion! Certainly one of the best summer beers I've had in a while, and, for what it is, it's one of the best in its style that's come out recently.
I've been liking a lot of things this brewery's been doing, whether it be a milk stout with Autocrat coffee syrup (another "local collab" beer they put together that was quite enjoyable), a Russian imperial stout or imperial pilsner, they've been mostly hits for me even though there are typically better examples of whatever style they're handling at the time. However, the price is right, and it's nice to be able to say that a brewery that was at one point just a producer of generic American adjunct lager has tapped in to the craft market and delivered some truly interesting products without sacrificing their image. I think that's worthy of praise -- cheers!
The official breakdown:
- Style: Shandy (beer + fruit juice/lemonade)
- ABV: 5%
- Appearance: Fairly orange-tinged straw-colored beer with high transparency and only a very small, moderated head that dissipates quickly
- Scent: Sugary sweet lemons, lemon peel/oil, slight wheat and crackery malt; rindlike citrus, a bit of cut grass and herbal style hops here and there
- Taste: Big lemon in the front, hitting all the right tastebuds, but nirvana is found with grainy, cereal-like malt and some tangerine/other citrus
- Mouthfeel: Solid bubbles with a slightly oily and juicy feel; great balance between beer and lemonade flavor with a bright and flavorful lean
- Drinkability: No problems here, though it might be a bit more full-bodied than some others in the style. That rocks though; this is very well made