Friday, June 21, 2013

POURsuasion: A Shandy is a Cocktail, Not a Beer Style

After my little tryst with #CraftVsCrafty I feel I should warn you dear reader.  We are going further down the rabbit hole...


Shandys are cocktails, not beer styles- although some of the major beer producers in the US would have you believe otherwise.  

If not a beer style, what is a shandy? gives us a brief glimpse with the definition as "A shandy, or shandygaff, is beer mixed with citrus-flavored soda, carbonated lemonade, ginger beer, ginger ale, or cider. The proportions of the two ingredients are adjusted to taste, usually half-and-half."  I think Todd Coleman gives us a broader look at shandys with his article on 8/9/2007 Oh, Shandy, "...the English ... have a long tradition of mixing beer with other drinks or other types of beer: consider the snakebite (beer and hard cider), the dog's nose (beer and gin), the half-and-half (half porter, half beer), or the black-and-tan (half stout, half lager)."   

Summation: Beer mixed ≈1:1 with some other contrasting flavor beer or juice beverage.

Origins:  "Some accounts attribute the invention to Henry VIII, who purportedly came up with the concoction as a tonic during his matrimonial difficulties; others trace it to the 18th-century novel Tristram Shandy. (The "gaff" in the name is thought by some to be a contraction of ginger and half-and-half.)" - Todd Coleman, 8/9/2007 Oh, Shandy.  Other well known types of Shandy's are: Alstervasser, Potsdamer, Radler, Russ.  The Radler type of Shandy was invented by the Munich gastronomer Franz Xaver Kugler in September 1922. On this particular day his beer started to run out, so he mixed the remaining beer with lemonade and pretended he created the Radler especially for the cyclists so that they could drive home without the risk of falling off their bicycles. 

Again, we see a pretty clear description of the shandy as a cocktail or mixed drink, not as a unique style of beer.

I detailed Greg Koch's response about BMC's (Budweiser, Miller, Coors) attempts at further filling their pockets at whatever the cost to the craft beer industry (and the craft beer drinker) in my last article.  Digging into the world of shandys for this post unearthed that Coors owned Leinenkugel's and Anheuser Busch InBev's [AB-InBev] Shock Top are well known contenders in this line of drinking. Now, let me muddy the waters...  Enter the new beverage, Curious Traveler.  
"The House of Shandy Beer Company is a new craft beer venture from Alchemy and Science, based in Burlington, Vermont. It launched in 2012 with a mission to combine the European Shandy tradition with American ingenuity. Curious Traveler is the first product."
Charlene Peters,, 8/12/12, A Nice Cold Brew: Curious Traveler  
Established in 2012 by House of Shandy (renamed later to The Traveler Beer Company) it is owned by  Boston Beer Company Inc.  I know this means nothing in and of itself, but put into context Boston Beer Company is also responsible for the creation and distribution of the following beers: Samuel Adams®, Sam Adams Light®, Twisted Tea®, Angry Orchard®, The Traveler Beer Company, Angel City Brewing Company - 2012 Boston Beer Company Annual Report.

The "upstanding craft brewery" owned by Jim Koch (No relation to Greg Koch) is associated with shandys?!  Is this the same Jim Koch who helped pioneer the renaissance in American taste for flavorful, traditional beer as Samuel Adams®?  Whose success became an inspiration and a catalyst to other small brewers? Who today is synonymous with Samuel Adams the largest craft brewer, brewing close to two million barrels of Samuel Adams beer according to their website,  Oh but it is...  In 2012 Samuel Adams introduced their own type of shandy, The Porch Rocker. The final nail in the coffin is Curious Traveler.  
"Alchemy & Science, our [Boston Beer Company, Inc's] craft brew incubator completed its first year and continues to make progress and explore potential opportunities. During the year, Traveler Beer Company rolled out in test markets with its Curious Traveler and Tenacious Traveler shandy-style beers and it is likely we will launch more markets in 2013."
- Nasdaq transcript 2012 earnings results Boston Beer Company Inc. 
/Sets aside Rose Colored Glasses...

In that response mentioned earlier, Greg Koch was taking a jab at BMC, but was he also taking a shot at Boston Beer Company Inc?  I feel like I just found out that there is no Santa Clause.  Going back to earlier, Shandys are a mixture of beer mixed with some other contrasting flavor beer, juice, and/or sparkling pop beverage (Yes it is a Pennsylvanian thing... it isn't soda its POP!).  It makes me chuckle just a bit that BMC beer has to be mixed with pop in order for it to be tolerable... 

It makes me sad to know that Samuel Adams and the conglomerate owning it, Boston Beer Company Inc., are also on board with endorsing and selling the mixing of craft beer with essentially pop.

Shandys ≠ Beer
Lets put a pink umbrella in that to emphasize.

Upon review BMCB (Budweiser, Miller, Coors AND Boston Beer Company) are billing their Shandy beverages as beer. Shandys are not in a separate category on their websites, nor is there any language to help the curious understand that this product is not a beer but a pre-mixed beverage cocktail as of this article's posting date. 

I agree with Greg Koch that this type of obfuscation being used by the BMCB hurts craft breweries. For just Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy the fringe craft drinker market of this type of mixed drink grew 80% in 2010 (200k and 250k barrels sold). That kind of volume ranks this pre-mixed beer cocktail in with the country's largest craft breweries, and the people drinking it largely don't know that they aren't drinking beer.  

BMCB is making the Shandy (as my DARE officer used to say)  "a gateway drug."  Don't like beer, but love that sweet wine cooler/hard cider? Here try this "Beer"! Now that you are hooked, how about trying our other actual beers! The Germans have been doing this for centuries to help children acclimate to the taste of beer (nonalcoholic of course).  

Like Franz Xaver Kugler in 1922, BMCB are just in it for the money.  Sell more "beer" by cutting it with something else!  Seems very similar to watering down your beer to sell more...  BMCB is kicking this up a notch and applying it to the wine/cocktail crowd and the fringe drinker to pull them in to increase their market share.

If you want to learn more about beer, and take the time to find a style that you like, go to a craft brewery.  Want something clean and crisp with low ABV?  I am sure they can steer you towards their version of a Pale Ale, Lager, or something similar.  Talk to the people there about what they like and what they would recommend based on your preferences. Support the creativity that abounds in your local craft beer community. You'll be surprised at some of the really innovative things that are out there and that are actually beer.  

There's nothing wrong with a beer cocktail (Ever try floating a shot of HopHead Vodka over a DIPA?), just don't hide that fact from me when you are prepackaging it for mass consumption. Lets keep it above board shall we!  Should Shandys have their own column under the mixed drinks category?  Should there be a better distinction by BMCB that these are a mixed beer cocktails and not a beer style? To both I raise my fist to the air and bellow: "Hell yes!"  

Couple this dog and pony show in with the #CraftVsCrafty war for our taste buds and we have a situation where the terms craft and beer get diluted and confusing. We know that big beer companies aren't going to educate potential drinkers, we need to educate ourselves, and sometimes each other.

Cocktail Image: Microsoft Power Point

No comments:

Post a Comment