Many years ago, I worked in a pub. Often, British tourists and ex-pats came in asking for a “shandy," which they soon educated me about.
Shandy dates back to the 17th century. It's typically beer mixed with a citrus-flavored soda or carbonated lemonade, ginger beer, ginger ale or cider (which we'd call a “Snakebite”).
Today, English bartenders blend beer with various lemon and lime beverages for their customers. The result is typically very much like a sweeter but watered-down beer. I understand that the shandy is supposed to be refreshing and light, but it just didn’t cut it for me.
So when I was offered a new brew from the Traveler Beer Company (formerly the House of Shandy), I admit that I had a fair amount of skepticism.
Other breweries' attempts at shandy-like brews have had limited success, coming across as powdered lemonade mix tossed into a light lager and stirred up. But I trusted the source, and was very happily surprised.
These are no watered-down brews.
The Traveler Beer Company is a project of Alchemy and Science, based in Burlington, Vermont. Founded by Alan Newman, the ex-CEO of Magic Hat Brewing, and Stacey Steinmetz, Magic Hat’s first employee, Alchemy and Science is a craft beer think tank. Newman is well-known for the Willy Wonka-style inventiveness that distinguished the Magic Hat brand.
That same spirit of adventure is living on through Traveler Beer Company, which launched in 2012 with the mission of “combining the European shandy tradition with American ingenuity to create the American shandy.”
The two current offerings from Traveler are worth trying, with a third variety coming out in the next few months. While these are labeled as shandy, they are in actuality full-fledged beers made with hops, grain, and interesting additions to bring the flavors alive.
The Curious Traveler, Traveler’s flagship shandy, pours golden and cloudy with a minimal head that doesn’t last long. There is a very nice citrus aroma, with some sweet lemon hints. The carbonation is light, and the citrus flavor is up front but not overwhelming. It is incredibly refreshing and crisp, and perfect for a casual sitting-on-the-porch kind of day. It is a low 4.4 percent ABV and an excellent complement to lighter fare such as fruit salad or grilled shrimp with lemon pepper.
The Tenacious Traveler is based on the foundation of the Curious Traveler, but brings a different edge to the glass. Made with ginger and honey, it has a spicy sweetness that provides an extra zing. Tenacious pours a darker yellow color with a large, lingering yellow-white head. The aroma is tart, with lemon, ginger and orange notes. The flavor is very much like a wheat beer, bready and with strong orange and honey and just the right amount of ginger. It has a bit more body than the Curious, and tastes more spicy than sweet. Tenacious is a very drinkable 4.4 percent ABV, and I’d definitely recommend it for pairing with spicy Indian, Thai, or Chinese dishes.
Both of these brews are widely available in bottles as well as on tap in many locations. I am very excited to see what Traveler Beer has in store for future releases.
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