Leinenkugel’s is a Wisconsin brewery with six generations of family history that’s been brewing beer for almost 150 years. It was purchased by the Miller Brewing company in 1988 and is now part of the Molson Coors family of beers.
And even though they are now a Big Beer property Leinenkugel’s has retained its regional Wisconsin identity and has rabid following that love what they do.
But one of the most popular beers that they brew is a relative outlier for most breweries, it’s called a Radler in Europe and a Shandy here in the states,
So what the hell is a Radler / Shandy?
Basically a Radlers are lagers mixed with fruit juices and its history is wild….
The term Radler originates with a drink called Radlermass (literally “cyclist liter”) which was originally created by an innkeeper. During the great cycling boom of the Roaring Twenties, the innkeeper created a bicycle trail from Munich, through the woods, which led directly to his drinking establishment. On a beautiful June day in 1922, a reported “13,000 cyclists” crashed his party and running out of beer, he blended it 50/50 with a lemon soda he could never seem to get rid of, and the rest is history.
So clearly the Shandy has strong German roots and some of the best Radlers in the world are still produced over there. But in the US, many feel that the best American Shandy comes from Leinenkugel’s. And the fact that Wisconsin became home to a large swath of German immigrants may help explain the enormous popularity of Leinenkugel’s bestselling style.
Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy was born at the Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin brewery in 2007. It was developed to fit into a newly vacant summer seasonal slot.
When the brewing team set out to create the brewery’s next summertime hit, the directive from Dick Leinenkugel, then the brewery’s vice president of sales and marketing, was simple: “See what the Germans drink in the summer.”
And what they discovered was that that in the native land of Leinenkugel’s founder Jacob Leinenkugel Germans drank light beers like the Kölsch or the Hefeweizen in the summer, but they also drank Radlers.
And Leinenkugel’s trialed several variations before settling on a wheat beer base and mixed in lemonade and when the brewery hit up bars across the Midwest the Shandy took off.
“You could see people never had a beer like that, mixed with lemonade, Dick Leinenkugel, who is retiring from the business at the end of 2022, told Beer & Beyond. “I saw the reaction on people’s faces when they were tasting this beer for the first time. They absolutely loved it. I knew we had a winner.”
By 2010, with the formation the Tenth & Blake craft division, Summer Shandy had the full support of the brewery’s parent company. And they took the beer national, establishing it as the No. 1 summer seasonal in the country.
Almost overnight, Leinenkugel’s sales doubled.
And today, Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy accounts for 55% of Leinenkugel’s volume.
(All image credits: Leinenkugel’s)