The RADLER, a standing tradition in Bavaria and the alps, is now sweeping all of Germany and Austria, and is being offered both in bottles and cans by as many as 300 breweries
What then is this RADLER? How did it originate?
Why has it persisted?
In the mountains of Germany and Austria, the bicyclists (Radler in German) need a good refreshment, and a little additional nutritious fortification after a long climb up a mountain road in the blazing, humid weather, but they also need the soberness and strength to return home, down the long, steep hills. From these excursions has developed the concept of a beer and lemon-lime (actually Zitronenlimonade in German) mixture in Germany and Austria, the Radler and the Russ, basically the same as the Shandy in England. The Radler is a normal Munich "Helles" or a pilsner-style beer such as Zipfer mixed with 1/2 lemon-lime soda, and the Russ is a mixture of 1/2 Weizenbier, such as Edelweiß Hefetrüb, and 1/2 lemon-lime soda, - refreshing, relaxing, and enjoyable. Various names have emerged for this mix from the various breweries such as Alsterwasser, Russ'n, Weizenradler, Kristall Radler, etc. The name Alsterwasser was used in place of Radler because earlier, the Alster river in northern Germany was considered a source of cleaner water, and even though the beer was not brewed from this river water, the lightness, and clarity served to distinguish this light, clear beer mixture.
The origin of many mixed "concoctions" of beer and ... are unknown; however, the source of the Radler is reported as follows:
On a hot summer afternoon in June of 1922, Franz Xaver Kugler, the owner of a Gasthaus high in the Deisenhofner Kugler-Alm in Bavaria realized that he did not have enough beer to accomodate all of his guests for the day, both bicyclists as well as mountain hikers. Hence, he decided to offer his remaining beer, interestingly a dark beer, as a mixture of beer and lemon-lime soda of which he had an ample supply, and thus he nick-named his newly-found drink after the bicyclists,- hence a RADLER!
Why then has this light, actually diluted beer persisted? In reality, the beer-drinking Germans think firstly of a beer for refreshment, for conviviality, and at times with not too much alcohol. A Radler is generally between 2.4 and 2.6 % alcohol by volume. Their basic emphasis is more on health, sports, and activities such as hiking, etc. Hence, the popularity of the Radler.
Here follows a few personal anecdotes from PA relating to the
Radler. Many years ago, as PA was doing research in the Bayerische
Staatsbibliothek, he and a bavarian friend went to a local
beer-garden early one humid afternoon. PA ordered his usual Mass
(a liter of beer in bavarian dialect), but his friend ordered
a Radler Mass. Shocked, PA asked why, and the friend replied
that he was on his way to work, needed a refreshing, social drink
without too much alcohol.
Even more fascinating, when PA took MA to Munich for the first time, they visited Mathäser (similar to the Hofbräu Haus), and ordered two Mass. On the first sip, PA was astounded, - even after a few years absence from Munich he had not forgotten everything, - he was served a Radler Mass. As the Fräulein (about 55 or more) was flying by, serving more beer to other customers, PA politely asked it he had inadvertently got a Radler. The immediate reply from the Fräulein was - "Um Gottes willen, da ist mein Radler" (heavens, there is my Radler), and immediately wisked it away to the proper table; PA said a little prayer, and eventually got his proper Mass.
Having lived many years in Munich and Bavaria, PA spent many a hot afternoon under the shade of the ever present chestnut trees in Hirschgarten (S-Bahn stop Laim, and a short walk). As you stand in line for your beer (no Fräulein, but as a fast food service for beer only), you have the option of adding a lemon-lime soda to the Stein before the Wirt adds the beer, - hence a Radler, - definitely traditional, refreshing, and popular.
The Radler as brewed by the Austrian Brau A.G. is available in liquor stores and supermarkets through-out Austria in two versions: 1- the normal bavarian-style Radler with Kaiser Pilsner-style beer and lemon-lime, and the SCHNEE RADLER (Snow Radler), - EdelweissHefetrüb and lemon-lime. This Schnee Radler was initially offered only in the Austrian alps above 1000 meters (about 3000 feet), but will soon be down to sea-level when PA'S BIER begins to import it in some quantity.
Think about it, - a light beer, a refreshing beer, low in alcohol on a hot summer day, or even on a cold winter day, (the Bavarians drink it in summer and winter),
For further informatiion on how the Germans and Austrians mix beer with other drinks, see: The Mix: Concoctions with beer. , also Seidl3
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