Helles a good radler

My wife is not a beer fan. This is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing as my beer lasts longer, but a curse as I cannot share the fruits of my hobby with her (although she does love the fruits of my cider and wine making).

But my wife (and I) does enjoy a radler. For those who haven’t encountered these, they are a common beverage in Germany and Austria, usually served in cafes catering to cyclists, and are made of a 50:50 mix of a light beer (often a helles, although some are made with wheat beers or pilsner) and a ctirus soda (like 7-up, only a stronger citrus character).

While refreshing, radlers have two major issues (from my point of view): 1) Mixing the beer with the soda decreases the alcohol content too much, and 2) the balance is too sweet for my tastes.

So I tried to make a radler that my wife would like, but which would also fit my tastes better…I achieved the later, but the former goal was not quite achieved.

“Recipe”

Recipe in quotes as this barely counts as a recipe:
  • ~17L of a light lager (I used the Helles blogged about in my previous post, but any light lager would work)
  • 1/4 tsp of potassium metabisulfite
  • 10 g of potassium sorbate
  • 4 cans of frozen juice concentrate (enough to make up ~10L of juice; I used pink lemonade)
Transfer the beer into a carboy and mix in the metabisulfite/sorbate – this will stabilize the beer and prevent any residual yeast from consuming the sugar in the juice concentrate. Then add the concentrate, mix and carbonate. That’s it!

Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Slightly darker, but much hazier than the Helles this beer was made from. Head retention is poor – likely due to fruit oils in the frozen juice concentrate.
Aroma: Pink lemon-aid, citrusy and fresh. The underlying malt-note is present, but plays second fiddle to the citrus.
Flavour: Here is where I succeeded…and failed. The citrus note is strong and upfront – as with most raddlers it is the focus of the beer. Beneath that is (as you would expect) the sweetness imparted from the juice. But where this recipe deviates from the normal raddler is that there is a strong beer note, including a detectable hop bitterness. To my palate this greatly improves this beer, making it more balanced and with less apparent sweetness than is normal. Likewise, the maltiness of the helles comes through, adding a nice counter-point to the citrus character of the lemonade. To my wife’s palate, this is where I went wrong – its too “beery”, which means that there is too much hop bittnerness. Aftertaste is a lingering sweetness/citrus, with a hint of hop bitterness.
Mouthfeel: Not as light bodied or dry as the helles base, and far heavier than a conventional raddler, but still light enough and fresh enough to be refreshing. You can tell this was made from juice instead of soda, as the beer’s body has some of the “thickness” of juice, rather than the clean/crisp body of soda (if soda can be said to have body).
Overall: For my preferences, this is far better than any commercial raddler I’ve had. The balance provided by the higher hop bitterness is more pleasing to my palate, while the beer retains a refreshing character. To my wife’s palate I’ve not been as successful as hoped – that bitterness I perceive as adding balance is, to her, a strong and unpleasant note.
Next Time: Given this was supposed to be a treat for my wife I’m going to have to rebrew it more to her taste. I haven’t finalized my plans yet, but next time I think I’m going to use a wheat beer for the beer base and use soda “reinforced” with frozen juice concentrate (to better mimic the soda normally used) in place of the pure juice concentrate I used in this recipe. And most importantly, I’m going to stick to the 50:50 soda/beer ratio that is normally used for raddlers – apparently that ratio wasn’t decided on arbitrarily, and instead represents a good balance.

2 thoughts on “Helles a good radler

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