ABOUT 600 YEARS ago, the German Purity Law was passed. The law said what beer should be made of, but in the modern context, codified that the Germans were a people drinking so much, that they had to pass laws ensuring that all available bread grains wouldn’t be snatched up and turned into beer. Germany eventually grew bored with just being “the best” and started doing “things,” to their beer.
I’ve been drinking those things. I’ve traveled extensively in Germany and am a home brewer from the land of craft brewing (Wisconsin). With that in mind, here’s my take.
Radler: Accounts vary as to whether this is Sprite and beer, or lemon soda and beer. Either way, it’s not quite a Shandy. Most bottled variants are a pure half-and-half, kicking the alcohol content down to a little over 2 percent (lighter than most “light” beers in the U.S.).
It’s a horribly refreshing concoction — like German Gatorade. In fact, if your goal is to preserve your masculinity, you should only drink this to hydrate in the middle of a long run, or a particularly intense rollerblading session.
Diesel: The Drew Carey show had a great running theme, where the characters brewed “buzz beer.” The idea was that the caffeine would power you through your growing intoxication. In the real world, American brew tradition has tried to do this by making “coffee” stouts, but it’s the Germans who may have uncovered the workable formula with “Diesel.”
From the tap, it’s half cola, half beer. But, in the bottle, most companies add a hint of “coffee aroma” to the cola mix. The result is exactly what should happen to a grown man’s soda-drinking habit. Like steeping hop leaves in your Pepsi, and chasing it with whisky.
Alster: See the “Radler” but with orange soda. There is no masculinity-preserving way to drink this.
Frauenfreundlich: You can tell a lot about a culture by what it considers “feminine.” In America, feminine is 7-Up and white wine, or a shot of grenadine, or, basically, the addition of any “syrup” to hide what alcohol exists. In Germany, they add straight cherry liquor. Yes, they make their beers more appealing to women by kicking up the alcohol content a percent or two.
I guess that’s not so weird. Watermelon Four Loko is, after all, 10 percent alcohol by volume.
Regenshchirm: As a health-conscious alcoholic, are you afraid you’re not getting enough caraway in your diet? Then order the Regenschirm, which contains a shot of caraway-infused liquor. It begs the question, what else were they doing with caraway-infused liquor? That sounds like a horrible tonic.
Bananaweizen: The name is self-explanatory. And, honestly, I didn’t buy this, because there’s only so much extra money I’ll pay to exchange alcohol for potassium (these mixes are always, always more expensive than just buying the beer itself). By this point, my wife had spent far too much time staring at me from behind her normal beers and questioning the sexuality of her life partner.
“The Sonic”: At a certain point, the formula becomes obvious: Take perfectly good beer and add something you give to your children. Well, I decided that a good, American mind could contribute. Like any good American mind, it has to go too far. Simply take your (plastic) bottle of Radler, chug away about two ounces, and add a shot of cherry (Kirsch) liquor. Pair with a chili-bacon currywurst.
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Jacob Bielanski is a freelance journalist based in Wisconsin. His travels have taken him through Western Europe, Central America and Texas.