With a boom in low-alcohol drinks, the 1970s classic is back

Why shandy is top of the hops! With a boom in low-alcohol drinks, the 1970s classic is back… but not as you know it. Expert tippler JILLY GOOLDEN picks her favourite fusions

  • Ready-made shandy in a can has been reborn as a chic and fashionable drink
  •  New on the shelves is Shandy Shack, a craft beer shandy made from hoppy IPA 
  •  The summer of ’76 – with resulting drought – sent shandy sales on the rise 

As tens of millions of us stand by to watch England face Denmark — what could be a more summery drink to enjoy with the game than shandy?

Wednesday is expected to be warm and overcast — but fizzing shandy is a burst of sunshine no matter the cloud cover: a gloriously evocative, golden mixture of beer and lemonade or ginger beer. 

Shandy is currently undergoing an unlikely revival: part of a boom in ‘nolo’ (ie no or low-alcohol) beers, wines and spirits that has seen sales rise 50 per cent on this time last year.

Ready-made shandy in a can has been reborn as a chic and fashionable drink. 

New on the shelves is Shandy Shack, a craft beer shandy made from hoppy IPA and lemonade at 2.8 per cent alcohol.

Ah, shandy! Many drinkers of my vintage began lapping it up in the 1970s, the age of lager-and-lime and Watneys Party Seven.

As tens of millions of us stand by to watch England face Denmark — what could be a more summery drink to enjoy with the game than shandy?

The long, hot summer of ’76 — with resulting drought and seemingly unquenchable collective national thirst — sent shandy sales soaring. A concoction that had been rather looked down upon by serious tipplers finally found a well-deserved place in the sun.

For much of my generation, shandy was our first sip of adulthood: our parents would often allow us to drink beer or cider if they had been weakened by lemonade or ginger beer.

It didn’t take long for canny manufacturers to realise they had a lucrative market on their hands.

In the 1970s a number of ready-made, low-alcohol shandies arrived. I confess they passed me by — I think I already had a taste for something a bit more exceptional. 

But enough people fell for a can of Top Deck Shandy or Shandy Bass which apparently offered a veneer of sophistication, even though the alcohol content of each of these was so low — in most cases 0.5 per cent – that they were classified as soft drinks.

Although I am probably best known as a wine broadcaster and writer — having also appeared with Oz Clarke on the BBC’s Food And Drink programme — I’ve always loved shandy.

The American writer Christopher Morley once dismissed a mixture of beer and ginger beer as ‘drunk by the lower classes in England and by strolling tinkers, low church parsons, newspapermen, journalists and prizefighters’.

Well, I’m sure I tick at least a couple of those boxes, and that may be why the Mail asked me to organise a shandy tasting. 

The results were intriguing, with quite a few surprises, and I hope that you too make the most of the long, hot summer we all deserve — and find my guide to shandy . . . handy.

RATINGS:

7-10: Top of the hops

4-6: Half and half

1-3: Scraping the barrel   

Fullers black cab stout, mixed with Fentimans Ginger Beer 

500 ml bottle, £1.80, Asda, 4.5 per cent 


This refreshing drink reminds me of a whisky mac, a combination of whisky and ginger wine

This grown-up mixture takes shandy into an unexpected league of sophistication.

Very dry, with a gingery flavour that does not overpower the sublimely dark stout.

This refreshing drink reminds me of a whisky mac, a combination of whisky and ginger wine. 

I remember only too well how, during my teenage days, I once got off my face on whisky macs after a visit to Cheltenham races with a boyfriend. I fell off his parents’ lavatory when we went home. Not a good look, so handle with care.

Rating: 10/10

Newbarns pilsner, mixed with Fentimans rose lemonade

440ml can, £3.50, independent off-licences and newbarns brewery.com, 4.2 per cent


The German-style pilsner is brewed in Edinburgh by a small craft brewery and the e posh lemonade gives it an appealing Champagne colour

This German-style pilsner is brewed in Edinburgh by a small craft brewery. It’s a hoppy, refreshing lager and the posh lemonade gives it an appealing Champagne colour. 

But that’s where the fun ends — it reminds me of the inside of a grandmother’s handbag — a distillation of scented tissues, Parma violet sweets and talcum powder.

Rating: 2/10 

Heineken, mixed with R Whites cloudy lemonade

Heineken malt lager, 330ml can, 84p, Tesco, 5 per cent


This Heineken brand turns out to be the perfect base for a lager shandy – not too overpowering, but with personality

It may be a bog-standard, everyday, mass-market lager but it refreshed parts of me that other shandies couldn’t reach. 

This Heineken brand turns out to be the perfect base for a lager shandy – not too overpowering, but with personality. 

A surprising success… but don’t add ginger beer: I tried that and it tasted plastic and synthetic.

Rating: 7/10

Hoegaarden wheat beer, mixed with Fentimans Victorian lemonade

750ml bottle, £2.75, Asda, 4.9 per cent


This beer comes with notes of coriander and orange peel. Add the lemonade and it’s all too much

A good wheat beer and an excellent, upmarket lemonade. Mixed together? A car crash. 

They bring out the worst in each other. This beer comes with notes of coriander and orange peel. Add the lemonade and it’s all too much.

Rating: 2/10 

Doom Bar Amber Ale, mixed with Supermalt Ginger Beer

500ml bottle, £1.49, Tesco, 4.3 per cent


Doom Bar is everywhere and with this gingery, sweet ginger beer it makes for an eclectic shandy

Doom Bar is everywhere and with this gingery, sweet ginger beer it makes for an eclectic shandy. 

Swish and cloudy — not a bad drink for a sophisticated teenager, if you want to keep them off the more powerful alternatives. Good luck with that!

Rating: 5/10

Shandy Shack elderflower lager top

330ml can, £1.80, Sainsbury’s. 2.5 per cent

There’s a reliable whiff of low-alcohol lager and only suggestions of hops, but the elderflower doesn’t power through

Vegan, apparently, with a slosh of natural lemonade, this tastes like a melted, multi-coloured ice lolly. 

There’s a reliable whiff of low-alcohol lager and only suggestions of hops, but the elderflower doesn’t power through. I wouldn’t cross the road to buy it.

Rating: 4/10

Schofferhofer Radler

330ml can, £1.85, Morrison’s. 2.5 per cent

The Schofferhofer Radler is very fizzy and tastes like an alcoholic freshly sliced grapefruit

One of the new wave of Radlers, which are ready-mixed German shandies (‘Radler’ is the German word for ‘cyclist’). 

Very trendy — and very fizzy —this tastes like an alcoholic freshly sliced grapefruit. The grapefruit overpowers everything.

Rating: 6/10

Manns brown ale, mixed with Schweppes lemonade

500ml bottle, £1, Morrisons, 2.8 per cent


It looks like Guinness but is much less heavy, less creamy and makes a great shandy — all the better with ordinary lemonade

Another stagger down memory lane; when’s the last time anyone drank a brown ale? 

It looks like Guinness but is much less heavy, less creamy and makes a great shandy — all the better with ordinary lemonade. I’d be quite happy to drink this all afternoon.

Rating: 9/10 

Anspach and Hobday craft lager, mixed with Fentimans Victorian lemonade

440 ml can, £2.50, independent off-licences and anspachandhobday.com, 4.7 per cent


Too clever by half, the beer cancels out the lemonade and the lemonade the beer. Smells awful and tastes almost as bad

A London craft lager that is impressive and refreshing on its own — but in a shandy? Per-lease. 

Too clever by half, the beer cancels out the lemonade and the lemonade the beer. Smells awful and tastes almost as bad.

Rating: 2/10

Leffe Belgian pale ale, mixed with Schweppes lemonade

750ml bottle, Waitrose, £3, 6.6 per cent


The powerful Belgian beer holds its fragrance when mixed with either lemonade or ginger beer

A powerful Belgian beer, which holds its fragrance when mixed with either lemonade or ginger beer. 

It’s probably just too strong for a summer shandy. But those who can handle their drink might insist otherwise.

Rating: 6/10

Unbeliever Grapefruit Radler

440ml can, £3.10, capsandtaps.co.uk, 3 per cent

This Unbeliever Grapefruit Radler is cloudy, almost like a wheat beer, and shockingly tart, with rapier-thrusting grapefruit

The first British Radler, from independent Sheffield brewery Abbeydale. 

Cloudy, almost like a wheat beer, and shockingly tart, with rapier-thrusting grapefruit. As dry as fino sherry, with a pronounced grapefruit zing and hint of tinderbox wheat beer in the mix.

Rating: 9/10

The Original small beer company, mixed with R Whites cloudy lemonade

350ml bottle, theoriginal smallbeer.com, £15 for six, 2.1 per cent


The Original small beer company is a craft lager aimed at light drinkers: perfectly acceptable on its own, but in a shandy it vanishes

This is a craft lager aimed at light drinkers: perfectly acceptable on its own, but in a shandy it vanishes.

It smells very fragrant, like a bouquet of flowers sent from Guernsey, but too feminine for male drinkers. Rather insipid.

Rating: 2/10

Shandy shack IPA shandy

330ml can, £1.80, Sainsbury’s, 2.8 per cent

The Shandy shack IPA shandy is lovely and frothy, with a golden amber colour and has a very unusual and appealing smell of pine

Lovely and frothy, with a golden amber colour, this pre-mixed shandy has a very unusual and appealing smell of pine. 

It’s on the sweeter side of shandies, but it’s got a strong, hoppy kick and an almost whimsically sweet finish. Great to take on a picnic; a perfect drink for a summer’s day.

Rating: 8/10

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