What makes a beer a radler?

What Makes a Radler Beer? Ultimate Guide to the Best Cyclist’s Brews

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Sometimes, you don’t fancy a whole pint and prefer something more fruity. Say, it’s morning, or you’re hungover—those are the only times that spring to mind. Well, the Germans have got you covered with their Radler. This article explores what makes a Radler beer and the intriguing history of this citrusy beverage initially made for those pesky cyclists, offering a few brands to try! We’ll even tune into the fruity fight of Radler vs Shandy. Without further ado, fat-bottomed girls, get on your bikes and ride!

The Origins of the Name ‘Radler’

The Radler beer has a fascinating history that dates back to the early 20th century. Radler, a German term meaning “cyclist,” is a refreshing drink made from a mixture of beer and lemon soda or lemonade. The credit for the creation of Radler is usually given to Franz Xaver Kugler, a German innkeeper with a passion for cycling.

Storytime! Gather around, children. 

What makes a Radler beer? A cyclist with a Radler.
The Cyclist’s Beer

In 1922, Kugler opened a tavern in a small town near Munich, located along a popular cycling route. He noticed a growing cycling trend among the population and saw an opportunity to capitalise on it. He created a bicycle trail that led directly to his tavern to attract cyclists to his establishment. The idea was a huge success, and soon, Kugler’s Tavern became a popular destination for cyclists.

One day, Kugler found himself overwhelmed by the number of cyclists stopping by his tavern. He feared that he would run out of beer. To solve this problem, he mixed his remaining beer with lemon soda that he had been unable to sell, doubling his beer supply. He presented this new concoction to the cyclists as a special drink designed just for them, calling it “Radlermass” or “cyclist’s litre.” 

The drink was an instant hit, providing cyclists with a refreshing, less-alcoholic beverage option perfect for quenching their thirst without impairing their ability to continue their ride.

The Modern Radler

Since then, the Radler has become a popular beer mix in many parts of the world. It is known for its refreshing qualities and lower alcohol content compared to regular beer, making it a perfect drink for those who want to enjoy the taste of beer without getting too drunk. 

The popularity of Radler has inspired various versions, and similar beer mixes globally. It is especially popular in the summer, as it’s a refreshing delight when trying to cool down. 

What Makes a Radler Beer? It’s Main Characteristics 

What makes a radler beer - a bunch of radler canned beers.
What Makes a Radler?

A beer becomes a Radler through the simple process of mixing beer with a carbonated lemon or lime soda, lemonade, or another fruit-flavored soft drink. The defining characteristics of a Radler include:

A Mixture of Beer and Soda

The traditional Radler consists of a 50/50 mix of beer and lemon soda or lemonade. However, variations in the ratio can occur, with some preferring a lighter taste of beer or a sweeter taste of the lemonade component. The choice of beer typically leans towards lighter styles, such as lagers, pilsners, or wheat beers, which complement the citrus flavour without overpowering it.

Lower Alcohol Content

Due to the dilution, Radlers generally have a lower alcohol content than standard beers. This alcohol by volume (ABV) usually ranges from 2% to 4%, making it a popular choice for social occasions where people prefer a less intoxicating option or seek refreshment during or after physical activities like cycling. Some Radlers are also non-alcoholic!

Sweet, Refreshing Taste

Radlers are known for their refreshing taste, characterised by a balance between the beer’s bitterness and the sweet, tangy flavour of the citrus soda or lemonade.

Fruity and Delicious, It’s Fruitilicious

While the classic Radler is made with lemon soda or lemonade, many variations now exist, incorporating different fruit flavours such as grapefruit, orange, and lime. These variations adhere to the spirit of the original Radler by offering a refreshing, lower-alcohol alternative to traditional beer but with a broader range of flavour profiles to cater to different tastes.

In essence, what makes a beer a Radler is its blend with a citrus or fruit-flavoured soft drink, resulting in a low-alcohol, refreshing beverage that retains some beer characteristics while introducing a sweet and tangy flavour.

Our Top 9 Radlers to Try!

You are now an expert on the history and characteristics of this German Radler. But life is all about experience. Get yourself to the liquor store and try some of these tastebud-teasing tipples. 

  1. Schöfferhofer Grapefruit 2.5% (Radeberger Gruppe): Introducing the first Radler to combine Hefeweizen beer and grapefruit juice, and the correct pronunciation of its name: Chauffeur + ah + (The) Hoff + ah!
  2. Porch Rocker 4.5% (Samuel Adams): A Helles beer blended with lemon, creating a refreshing Radler with a sweet, tart taste.
  3. Stiegl-Radler Grapefruit  2% (Stieglbrauerei zu Salzburg): Mixed with natural grapefruit juice, this Radler has a pleasant tangy taste and an amber cloudiness.
  4. Ginger Lemon Radler 4% (Boulevard Brewing Co.): A zesty, refreshing take on this tradition that’s light and thirst-quenching. 
  5. Roadie Grapefruit Radler 4% (Great Divide Brewing Company): Inspired by Colorado’s annual 400+ mile BoulDurango bike ride, this Radler is dry and tart using natural grapefruit puree. 
  6. SPF 50/50 Grapefruit 4.2% (Red Hare Brewing & Distilling): This is a light, refreshing blend of Gangway IPA and house-brewed sparkling grapefruit soda.
  7. Grapefruit Blood Orange Radler 5.1% (Two Pitchers Brewing Company): A blend of lager, grapefruit juice, and a hint of blood orange that’s “pure sunshine in a can”.
  8. Cage Radler 3% (Victory Brewing Company): Connecting lemon freshness and crisp lager with notes of lemonade, lemon zest, and a hint of graininess.
  9. Light & Squeezy, Lemon-Raspberry Radler 4.2% (Confluence Brewing Company): Mixed Kolsch with a big ol’ pile of juicy raspberries and lemon soda. A little tart, a little jammy, and a little sweet. 

So, there we have it, folks. Try some of these beautifully crafted Radlers and share your thoughts.

Radler vs Shandy: Spotting the Differences

Many Brits reading this may be thinking, well, a Radler is just a Shandy. So, what is the difference between Radler and Shandy? If they were a celebrity couple, they would be “Randy”. 

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

The first distinction lies in the ratio. A traditional Radler employs a 50:50 mix of beer and lemon soda, whereas 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 uses a Bavarian-style lager and is often a pre-made beverage, shandies can be made with various beer styles, including ales and lagers. In Britain, you can order any beer at the pub as a shandy, and the bartender will pull a pint 75% of the way and top the rest of the pint glass with lemonade. 

Lastly, cultural nuances come into play. Shandy is a shortening of shandygaff, first appearing in 19th-century England. It was actually mentioned in an H.G. Wells comic. They’re now part of British 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.

Four Different Ways to Make a Shandy

European Beer Mixing

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. No surprise that the term “panaché” literally means “mixed” in French. 

If you head to Spain, you’ll encounter the ‘Clara‘, which can be made with lemonade or a lemon-flavoured soda mixed with a light lager. It’s traditionally enjoyed in the summer, just like a Radler, Shandy, or Panaché. 

Whether you lean towards the lemony lightness of a Radler, the varied flavours of a Shandy, or fancy exploring Europe’s variations, these beers are perfect for a Summer’s day or when you’re feeling a little delicate from the big night out last night. 


Let’s put all the knowledge together and mix it all up. Radler is a refreshing summer drink that originated in Germany in the 1920s. It’s made by mixing beer, lemonade, or lemon soda with a sweet and tangy taste. It generally has a lower alcohol content, ranging from 2% to 4%. Unlike the British Shandy, Radlers are known for their specific beer-to-soda ratio and cultural association with cycling. Similar drinks are enjoyed across Europe, with regional variations such as the French Panaché and the Spanish Clara. All of a sudden, I want to ride my bicycle. On your marks, get set, go!


Can Radler Make You Drunk?

Typically, Radlers have lower alcohol content, but they can make you drunk if consumed in large quantities. It takes more Radler than regular beer to reach the same effect due to its dilution with soda or lemonade.

What is a Double Radler?

A double radler, like BREWHALL’s Super Rad, has a higher alcohol content than a typical Radler at 7% ABV. 

What is a Dark Radler?

A dark Radler is a variation of the traditional Radler. It blends dark beer (like a Dunkel) with lemonade or another citrus-flavoured soda. The combination offers a malty, sometimes chocolatey or coffee-like flavour of the dark beer with the refreshing, sweet-tartness of the citrus mixer.

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