Adding sweetener to beer is probably not on the radar of many folks here in America. Considering the amount of alco-pop drinks that have passed through our collective marketplace, I find this fact a bit odd. I believe this has a fair amount to do with our collective ideal that beer equates to bitterness, thanks in part to our fascination with hops.
Europe has a different perspective on beer, regardless if it’s German, Belgian, English, or otherwise. Certainly hops plays a part in European beer, but it seems as if they have no problem in holding back on bitterness if the moment calls for it.
I say this after sampling Fentiman’s Shandy, a mass produced beer with lemon juice added (roughly a 70/30 ratio if Wikipedia is to be believe). What makes this combination of lemon juice and beer work? The distinct lack of bitterness found within the drink which allows the consumer to actually taste the grain of the beer along with the citrus of the lemon juice.
I will have to say that my knowledge of these types of drinks pretty much ends there. I have no idea if these are summer type drinks or fall, dinner drinks or breakfast (akin to our Mimosa at Brunch option over here). What I do know is that it’s a variation on beer that could work quite well over here….and here’s the caveat…if done properly.
If you see a mass-produced Shandy available to you (or even if your local brew-pub offers it as an option), I would recommend that you try some, if only to demonstrate the diversity that American brewers have yet to scratch.
Meanwhile, Fentimans does offer a decent drink, certainly sweet, but not overly so, and a decent foundation of true beer taste on the finish…minus the bitter hops to which we are so well acquainted. It’s definitely worth a try.