With summer finally here, it’s time to get your pantry well-stocked with canned, chillable beverages for the months ahead. Unless, that is, you’re visiting us from Southern California or New Mexico or some other hot-climate or topical place where your summers are borderline endless, at least by my Canadian standards. In that case, you already know the importance of keeping a stock of such things year round. Not that I need to tell you that, Mr/Ms/Mx Heat Expert, you.
In places like Canada, there are a limited number of perfect weekends in a year to enjoy a cold patio beer on a sweltering day. And if you’re in the mood for something thirst-quenching that’s also alcohol-free, you’ve got a lot more options than you used to have only a few short years ago. And one of these options is a non-alcoholic (aka NA) radler from Grolsch, an oddity for two different reasons.
A rad what now?
If you’re from or have visited Europe, you may already know about radlers. Long story short, they’re a 1:1 mix of beer and sparkling lemonade, either pre-mixed in a can or bottle, or mixed at the bar at the time of serving. As per the Wikipedia page on the subject, radlers are a type of shandy with a history of appreciation within the cycling community in Germany (radler being the German term for cyclist), presumably because it’s nice to cool down with a refreshing drink after a ride, but it’s also nice to not swerve into a tree on your bike ride home. The half-and-half mix meant that a 5% abv pint of lager became a 2.5% abv pint of radler, which is more appropriate for enjoying responsibly.
In the last decade, radlers made their way to North America in pre-mixed cans, often paired with grapefruit flavour instead of lemon. Some are borderline full-strength beers with a fruit flavour added, while others are true half-strength radlers.
So what happens if you take it a step further? What if you swap out the beer for non-alcoholic beer, and wind up with a 0% abv drink that still tastes like beer and sweet/tart lemonade? That’s what Grolsch did, and it’s actually kinda brilliant.
Why this is a great idea
Radlers aren’t meant to be especially strong or beer-dominant, so a radler is the perfect use case for a NA beer. You’re less likely to notice a missing taste of beer, or the typical alcohol notes, when the beer component of a typical radler takes a backseat to the lemonade. Any hard edges that a beer may have can be reduced by having a louder taste shouting at your palate.
Similarly, one of the issues that a lot of people have with NA beers is that the lack of alcohol throws the taste off-balance. This usually manifests through a lack of expected bitterness and a boost in grainy sweetness — it may not taste awful, but it doesn’t necessarily taste like beer. In this case, radlers already incorporate a sweetness from the lemonade, so a negative trait associated with many NA beers is papered over with the positive sweetness of a radler.
What’s it taste like?
I like to crack a can open and drink it like that, without pouring it into a glass. Ideally, it’s ice cold when served, for maximum quenching effect.
You’ll notice the sweetness right away, along with the hit of lemon/citrus and mouth-tingling fizz. Even though there’s some malt, the lemon flavour dominates. It does have a beery side to it, with notes of grain that you’re more likely to pick out as it warms up. It doesn’t taste like a pop, nor a beer, nor a cooler. It’s not as sweet as a gnarly vodka-spiked alcopop, but it’s far sweeter than any typical beer. Because it’s such a curious hybrid, a lot of folks who may not like beer may still enjoy one of these on a hot day.
In summary? Perfect for quaffing before the ride home to Rotterdam, without an intoxicated risk of veering into a watery ditch.
Price: $7.49 for a four-pack of 500 mL cans at Safeway in Edmonton
Value for Money: Fine. Less than $2 per tallboy.
Availability: Less difficult to find than it used to be.
Calories: 150 per 500 mL can. Just because there’s no alcohol doesn’t mean there aren’t any calories.
Verdict: Very nice.