The first time I had a shandy was a number of years ago at a pub called the Irish Rover in Louisville, Ky. It was a hot summer day, the bartender asked what I’d like to drink, and I paused for a moment.
“I know I don’t want a Guinness,” I said. “That’s more of a cold weather beer to me.”
I’ve since come to embrace stouts in all weather, but the die had been cast. He said, “Ever had a shandy?”
Next thing I know, he was mixing a Harp lager with lemonade, and I was drinking a shandy. And it wasn’t bad at all, especially on a day when the top of the thermometer was about to blow off.
With the crazy growth in the craft beer market in years since, Leinenkugel brands have embraced the shandy. We’ve seen odd inventions – like Bud Light Lime, and more and more beers of all varieties are having flavors added. So, yes, shandys and radlers (which is what Germany calls its version) are now very much in play in the beer scene.
That brings us to Cage Radler, which is exactly what you expect from a top-flight brewery like Pennsylvania-based Victory Brewing Company, which is well known for beers such as Golden Monkey, Prima Pils, and Hop Devil.
The hazy, yellow beer has only a scant head, and is carbonated like a soda. The aroma is like that of spicy lemonade, although the spice I perceived in the nose didn’t translate to the flavor of the drink. That flavor is actually on the sweet end of the spectrum for the most part, although the requisite lemon tartness is also present.
Honestly, it really drinks more like a soda than a beer, which isn’t surprising given that it’s just 3 percent ABV. What I noticed as I got about halfway through is that the tartness that creeps through every so often is reminiscent of the Lemonhead candy I loved as a kid – this beverage tastes vaguely like the weird, waxy coating on those yellow treats.
Bottom line, this is a backyard summer special, and it’s clear Victory is branching out to reach new (and larger) audiences – it actually made its debut as a spring special release last year, so apparently, it worked. Hey, let’s face it, not everyone wants the bite that a true lager brings, but most everyone likes to say they drink craft beer, right? Here’s the perfect compromise for less adventurous palates.
That said, a radler isn’t normally my thing. After I drank that first one years ago, I never ordered another, and I really doubt I’ll have another Cage Radler, even when the weather is hot. Still, a beer like this is all part of the marketing game in a robust market, and this is a solid entry if that’s the direction you want to take.
Cage Radler is available in 12-ounce cans, with a retail price of about $9.99 per six-pack. Find it near you by using Victory’s beer finder.
Kevin Gibson is a Louisville, Ky.-based free-lance writer who writes about everything from food to music to beer to bourbon to professional football. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono (pissed her off a little, too). He is author of "Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft" (2014, History Press). He published his first novel, "The Liberation of Crystal Hill" (Bearhead Publishing), in 2011; he also published "Crohn's Disease: A Memoir from the Toilet" in January 2015 and his currently working on two more book projects. He co-hosts a weekly local radio show, and also plays in a couple of bands, the Uncommon Houseflies and the Nick Peay Band. Not surprisingly, he doesn't sleep much. But when he isn't running around town chasing stories or poised at his trusty laptop writing, you can often find him at one of the local breweries and being thankful for the life he lives. That, or he'll be sitting on his couch with his trusty sidekick Darby. Check out his beer blog, 502Brews.com, or his website, KevinGibsonWriter.com, to find out more about his books and why he does what he does. Or feel free to call him names on Twitter: @kgramone.