As beer legend has it, the radler — a refreshing blend of beer and fruit soda — was invented a century ago by a German innkeeper faced with a horde of thirsty cyclists.
The innkeeper mixed beer with lemon soda to stretch his supply. The beer cocktail became known as a radler (cyclist in German) and is now one of the most sought-after summer beer styles sold at Gomer’s Midtown, 3838 Broadway.
“They’ve really taken off over the last year,” says Gomer’s employee Mark Baldwin.
Stiegl Radler, an Austrian blend of lager and grapefruit juice, helped spark the citrus-spiked beer trend, which inspired Coors Light to release its first seasonal variation, Coors Light Summer Brew.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
The beer in the Silver Bullet cans is brewed with citrus flavor and marketed as the World’s Most Refreshing Beer. Summer Brew even has its own hashtag: #LiveSummer.
If you like drinking local, you might prefer Boulevard Brewing Co’s take on the summer shandy, Ginger-Lemon Radler. It is brewed with real lemon and ginger juice, which gives it a natural zing.
Radlers aren’t the only hot summer seasonal: Crisp wheat beers, low-alcohol IPAs and fruit-infused ales are also enjoying their moment in the sun. Here are six regionally brewed beers that pair perfectly with patios, pool parties, backyard barbecues and thirsty cyclists.
1. Boulevard Ginger-Lemon Radler
Unfiltered Wheat beer is the base for this brew, which incorporates fresh ginger and lemon juice. If you like wheat beer with a twist of lemon or orange, you’ll dig Ginger-Lemon Radler, which gets a little extra zing from the fresh ginger.
Like most radlers, this one’s low in alcohol — only 4.1 percent by volume — which makes it a refreshing pick on a hot day.
Ginger-Lemon Radler is packaged in Boulevard’s Sample Twelve packs along with Unfiltered Wheat, Single-Wide IPA and Extra Special Bitter.
2. Schlafly Raspberry Hefeweizen Ale
St. Louis-based Schlafly adds pureed raspberries to Hefeweizen (German-style wheat beer) during primary fermentation to make this tart, fruit-forward brew.
Because it’s unfiltered, Raspberry Hefeweizen Ale has a slight haziness. It also has a tinge of pink from the raspberries — but don’t worry, this fruit beer is light and crisp, not cloyingly sweet. Mix it with lemonade to make a raspberry-lemon radler.
3. Mother’s Brewing Co. Sandy Hopped Up Wheat
Sandy, a hoppy wheat beer brewed by Mother’s Brewing Co. in Springfield, Mo., has a crisp, slightly bitter finish that hop heads will love.
The Hopped Up Wheat tastes a lot like an American Pale Ale thanks to a heavy dose of hops and kiss of grapefruit zest. According to the brewery, it pairs well with grilled shrimp, turkey burgers and jerk chicken kabobs.
4. Tallgrass Halcyon Unfiltered Wheat
Brewed in Manhattan with Kansas-grown raw white wheat and Citra hops, this endlessly refreshing summer brew boasts a subtle bouquet of tropical fruit flavors and aromas (think banana, pineapple and mango).
Fun fact: The name of the farmer who grows the wheat in the beer (Bill Mai) is on every sky-blue aluminum can of Halcyon Unfiltered Wheat.
5. Boulevard Pop-Up Session IPA
Hop-forward beers have become popular in recent years, but some of them are just too bitter for scorching summer days. Enter Boulevard Pop-Up Session IPA, an easy-drinking take on the style that has lots of citrusy flavors and aromas, but not a lot of alcohol.
At 4.3 percent alcohol by volume, Pop-Up IPA is one of Boulevard’s more “sessionable” beers, which means you can drink more of the beer in a single session.
Even the bottles are summery: Look for the label with a clear blue sky and pop-up camper on it.
6. Free State Stormchaser Summer IPA
Three years ago, Geoff Deman, head brewer at Free State Brewing Co.’s Lawrence brewpub, drafted a recipe for a hoppy beer that even hop haters would want to drink. The result was Stormchaser Summer IPA, which gets bright, tropical flavors from Citra and Centennial hops.
The name might sound extreme, but Stormchaser is low on bitterness and pretty easy to drink.
“We wanted to make an IPA that was as refreshing and inviting on a hot summer day as a pilsner,” Deman says.
Contact enterprise reporter Sarah Gish by calling 816-234-4823, emailing email@example.com or tweeting @sarah_gish.
Try these local summer beers on tap
Want to get out of the heat? Head for these cool brewpubs to try their local brews on tap.
Kansas City Bier Co.’s Russian
The taproom at Kansas City Bier Co., 310 W. 79th St. in the Waldo neighborhood, recently debuted a radler-style drink called the Russ’n (pronounced Russian). The beer cocktail blends the brewery’s hazy, tropical-flavored Hefeweizen with lemon-lime soda, which sounds strange until you try it.
Suggestion: Enjoy a Russ’n in the taproom’s biergarten, which overlooks the Trolley Track Trail.
A half-liter pour costs $5.25.
The Big Rip Brewing Co.’s Bubba Banana Cream Ale
At Big Rip Brewing Co., 216 E. Ninth Ave. in North Kansas City, brewers add dried banana chips to vanilla cream ale to make this popular summer brew, which isn’t over-the-top fruity. Enjoy a pour on the Big Rip’s recently added patio.
A pint costs $5.
McCoy’s Public House’s Peach Wheat
McCoy’s brewers add natural peach extract to unfiltered wheat for a summery twist. The brewpub, 4057 Pennsylvania Ave. in Westport, also makes a popular ginger shandy with freshly juiced lemon and ginger.
A pint costs $4.50.
Gordon Biersch’s SommerBrau
Gordon Biersch’s summer seasonal, SommerBrau, is modeled after German kolsch beer, a golden thirst-quenching brew. The lager, available at 100 E. 14th St. in Kansas City and 11652 Ash St. in Leawood, has a light body and a crisp finish and is available through July.
A 21-ounce pour is $6.25.
Boulevard’s new street festival, Boulevardia, debuts Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the West Bottoms. The festival features beer tastings, live music on two stages, an art fair, eco-expo, food trucks and a family-friendly carnival complete with a Ferris wheel.
Boulevardia will occupy a one-block area of the West Bottoms north of the 12th Street viaduct, roughly between Hickory and Mulberry streets. General admission tickets are $15 per day and are not expected to sell out. For more information, go to boulevardia.com or pick up the latest issue of Ink.