What makes a beer a radler?

Radler: The Cyclist’s Brew Unveiled

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The world of beer is diverse and fascinating, with one unique brew being the Radler. But what makes a beer a Radler? Essentially, a Radler, a delightful and thirst-quenching brew perfect for a summer’s day, is a mix of a light lager and a soft drink like lemonade or citrus soda. With an intriguing history rooted in German cycling culture and a delightful contrast to the British Shandy, the Radler invites us on a refreshing journey. 

The Invigorating Charm of a Radler

A Radler is much more than just a beer, embracing the spirit of leisurely summer days, refreshing pit stops, and post-workout cool-downs. It’s a delightful fusion of light, crisp lager and a citrus-based soft drink, typically lemonade, designed to quench thirst and tantalise the taste buds. 

The lower alcohol content of a Radler is another factor that adds to its charm. It allows one to enjoy the nuanced flavours of the beer without the heavy alcoholic punch. Typically, a Radler features an alcohol by volume (ABV) of around 2-3%, making it an excellent choice for daytime drinking or when you prefer a lighter alcoholic beverage. 

While the classic Radler pairs lager with lemonade, many variations exist today. Some feature different beer styles, while others experiment with various citrus flavours like grapefruit, lime, or orange. No matter the variety, all Radlers carry the spirit of that initial cyclist’s brew, staying true to its origin and purpose while evolving with contemporary tastes.

Now that we’ve established what makes a beer a Radler, you may be curious about the name itself. Why do they call it a Radler? Let’s dive into the history books to find the answer.

The Origins of the Name ‘Radler’

When we say the name Radler is as refreshing as the drink, we are not far from the truth. ‘Radler’ is German for ‘cyclist’, and this moniker has an equally invigorating origin story tied to its creation.

Cast your mind back to the summer of 1922. Imagine a scenic trail leading to the Kugleralm, a quaint inn nestled amidst the Bavarian forests. This idyllic spot, situated about 20 kilometres from Munich, was a popular destination for cyclists. One sunny day, the innkeeper, Franz Xaver Kugler, found himself hosting around 13,000 cyclists. Facing a potential beer shortage, Kugler needed a creative solution to quench the thirst of his athletic patrons.

His brilliant idea was to blend his remaining beer with a surplus of lemon soda he’d been struggling to sell. This concoction was not only thirst-quenching but also lower in alcohol content, ensuring the cyclists could enjoy their drink and still pedal home safely. 

The Radler then became synonymous with its cycling patrons and remains a favourite choice for those seeking a lighter, more refreshing beer. And thus, the Radler was born – a beverage born out of necessity, now savoured by many for its perfect blend of refreshment and restraint. But, as with many great inventions, there’s been some friendly rivalry over the years. We Brits have our own version, known as the Shandy. At first glance, a Shandy and a Radler might seem like the same drink, but are they really? 

Radler vs Shandy: Spotting the Differences

Radler vs Shandy
Radler vs Shandy

Crossing the English Channel, we enter the realm of the Shandy. Just like Radler, Shandy is a beer-based mixed drink. It’s usually mixed with carbonated lemonade, ginger beer, or fruit-flavoured soda in Britain. Sounds similar to a Radler, doesn’t it? While both are refreshing, lower-alcohol options, there are some subtle differences between the two that warrant exploration.

The first distinction lies in the ratio. A traditional German Radler employs a 50:50 mix of beer and lemon soda. In contrast, British Shandy often uses a higher beer-to-soda ratio. While this isn’t a strict rule, and individual tastes may vary, the result is usually a Shandy with a stronger beer taste and higher alcohol content than its German counterpart.

Secondly, the type of beer used can differ. While a Radler typically utilises a Bavarian-style lager, Shandies can be made with various beer styles, including ales and lagers. This variation offers a wider range of flavours, which can further distinguish a Shandy from a Radler.

Lastly, cultural nuances come into play. Shandies have been long-established in Britain, dating back to the 17th century. They’re a part of the pub culture, associated with warm summer days and enjoyed by adults and, traditionally, even children. Radlers, on the other hand, carry the spirit of German cycling culture, symbolising a balance between an active lifestyle and indulgence.

The concept of a beer-based mixed drink isn’t exclusive to Germany or Britain. In fact, many countries have their own versions, adding a unique twist to the refreshing blend of beer and soda. In France, you’ll find the ‘Panaché’, typically a half-and-half mix of beer and lemonade, similar to a Radler. Head over to Spain, and you’ll encounter the ‘Clara’, which can be made with either lemonade or a lemon-flavoured soda mixed with a light lager. It’s traditionally enjoyed in the summer months, just like a Radler or Shandy. These regional variations showcase the global love for this type of beverage, each imbued with a touch of local flair and culture.

Whether you lean towards the lemony lightness of a Radler, the varied flavours of a Shandy, or fancy exploring Europe’s variations, these beer blends offer a delightful departure from your standard pint. Now, let’s return to Germany and explore some of the country’s top-rated Radlers. A virtual taste tour, if you will!

Top German Radlers: Refreshment in a Glass

Germany, as the birthplace of the Radler, boasts many excellent options for those interested in trying this blend of beer and citrus soda. Here are some top German Radlers that stand out in terms of flavour, quality, and popularity:

  1. Paulaner Radler: From Munich’s renowned Paulaner Brewery, this Radler has a pleasant sweetness balanced with tart lemon and malty flavours.
  2. Erdinger Weissbier & Grapefruit Radler: This Wheat Beer Radler combines Erdinger Weissbier with grapefruit juice for a twist on the traditional Radler.
  3. Krombacher Radler: Made with 50% Krombacher Pils, this Radler offers a perfect balance of beer and citrus flavour.
  4. Warsteiner Lemon Radler: Light and effervescent, Warsteiner Lemon Radler is less sweet than many of its counterparts, offering a refreshing bitterness.
  5. Hacker-Pschorr Radler: This Munich-based brewery combines its high-quality lager with zesty lemonade, creating a refreshing and satisfying Radler.
  6. Bitburger Radler: Bitburger’s offering is a naturally cloudy Radler, mixing their premium pilsner with lemonade for a vibrant, thirst-quenching drink.

Remember, the best Radler is often a matter of personal taste, so don’t hesitate to try different brands and find the one that quenches your thirst best while offering a delightful hint of German tradition!


The Radler, a harmonious blend of light lager and zesty citrus soft drink, reigns supreme as a refreshing, lower-alcohol summer beer. With roots in Germany’s cycling culture, the Radler offers a fascinating twist on traditional beer styles. While it shares common traits with the British Shandy, discerning differences lie in their beer-soda ratios and cultural histories. By exploring celebrated Radlers from German breweries such as Paulaner and Erdinger, we dive deeper into the nuanced flavours of this unique beer blend. This enriches our beer-tasting experiences and reinforces the remarkable versatility within the world of brews.

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