Saturday, 24 August 2013

Radical Radler

You may have come across an orange-tinged beer in the liquor store, with a meagre 2.5% alcohol by volume (ABV).  This, my friends, is a Radler.

A what?

"Radler" literally translated means "cyclist" in German, which may have something to do with the low alcohol content. It has become known as a cocktail consisting of a 1:1 or 3:2 mixture of beer and soda pop.  There are several pre-mixed Radlers that have recently become popular in North America as well.  These include the Schöfferhofer and the Stiegl Radler.

F.X. Kugler
The invention of the drink is widely attributed to the Bavarian gastronomer Franz Xaver Kugler. Legend has it that Kugler, a railroad-turned-innkeeper, arranged for the construction of a bike trail through the forest from Munich to his pub, the Kugleralm.  The barkeep soon found himself a victim of his own success on a
Saturday in June 1922, when 13,000 cyclists descended upon his inn demanding beer.  To quench the thirst of the demanding customers, Kugler was forced to dilute the beer with lemon soda, a previously unpopular ingredient in such a beer-loving province.  He called the drink a "Radlermass" - radler meaning cyclist, and mass meaning a litre of beer.

While the legend is somewhat plausible, there are references to the Radler cocktail that are dated several years before 1922.

There are as many regional differences between Radlers as there are German dialects.  In some cases, the Radler is distinguished as using a lemon-lime flavored soft drink, while an Alsterwasser is mixed with an orange flavored soda.

In some areas of Münsterland, they mix beer with an orange soft drink to make a concoction they call Wurstwasser, or "sausage water" to describe the color of the drink.  Yummy.

Let's talk about the noble grapefruit for a moment.  There are several chemicals in grapefruit responsible for the bitter taste.  The essential oil of grapefruit is dominated by two compounds - limonene and myrcene.

IUPAC name, 7-Methyl-3-methylene-1,6-octadiene

There are many grapefruit flavors present in certain hops.  Cascade hops in particular are notorious for providing the grapefruit flavor and aroma to beer.  The essential oil extracted from Cascade hops is predominately myrcene (48.9%), while other abundant components include α-humulene, (E)-caryophyllene, (E)-β-farnesene. So although the two species are very different, they contain similar compounds that cause grapefruit and Cascade hops to resemble each other in flavor.


Enter Alley Kat's Summer Squeeze Grapefruit Ale.  This is an actual ale brewed with real grapefruit, and is a tad less sweet than a Radler.  While the citrus bite is similar to that of the German beer cocktail, this is an actual beer with 5% ABV. This seasonal beer is brewed with real grapefruit, the natural flavor enhances the Cascade hops without masking the refreshing bitter finish.  Get some before it goes back into Alley Kat's seasonal beer vault when the summer comes to an end.

So I've made beer-sicles before, yes (see Fruits of YourLabour, June 2012).  This is entirely different, I swear.  Well, sort of.

En garde!


Equipment:       One 6-well popsicle mould

Ingredients:       2 bottles Radler (Stiegl or other)

  1. Pour beer into of the popsicle mould until each well is filled halfway.  Make sure to pour down the side of the mould to minimize the level of foam.
  2. Continue to pour, filling moulds within ¼” of the top.
  3. Insert popsicle sticks and transfer to freezer.
  4. Share with friends who are over the legal age of majority.

Ort, David. First Draught: Stiegl Grapefruit Radler, a beer cocktail that’s actually good.

German Beer Institute

Hops. The Hopry.

Nance M.R. and Setzer W.N. Volatile components of aroma hops (Humulus lupulus L.) commonly used in beer brewing. Journal of Brewing and Distilling Vol. 2(2) pp. 16-22, April 2011.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

With a Grain of Salt

Sodium chloride, or common table salt, is critical in the culinary arts for enhancing flavor.  At low concentrations levels though, salt will reduce bitterness and increase the sweet, sour and umami.  However, at higher concentrations salt will suppress sweetness and enhance umami (or the "savory" flavor).  Thus moderation is key to maintaining the perfect balance.

Numerous foods can benefit from a pinch of salt.  The umami flavors in tomatoes are noticeably enhanced with a cautious tilt of the salt shaker (or a strip of bacon).  A sparing pinch can even take the edge off of a cup of bad coffee.  The quintessentially Canadian coffee chain Tim Horton's is known to add a pinch of salt to their coffee as well.  So why not beer?
Choose your weapon

Enter beer salts.  The Twang brand of Beersalts are specifically marketed for people looking to enhance their cheap, unflavorful beers.  They not only include, but also include citric acid and natural flavors of lemon, lime, and cayenne.  These not only add refreshment, but mask any off-flavor in the beer caused by too much sun exposure.

There are three flavors designed to enhance your beer enjoyment:
  1. Lemon-lime beer salt, designed for Mexican and American lagers and pilsners.
  2. Lime beer salt, designed to emulate the tradition of adding lime to Corona.
  3. Caliente 86 Hot Lime beer salt, developed in celebration of Twang's 25th anniversary.

Now, take this information with a grain of salt.  While I highly recommend trying these salts with Lucky or your buck-a-can beer of choice.  If you're drinking a high quality craft beer, don't bother.  You may ruin your fifteen dollar 750ml ale by adding too much.

All three flavors of Twang Beersalt can be found in various places across the border to the south.  However, there's no need to go all the way to the United States to pick these up.  You can easily imitate the flavor with simple ingredients from your kitchen. Try tossing a pinch of salt into your beer, along with a slice of lime.  Add a sparing shake of cayenne for extra kick.  Or drink your beer with some salty snacks instead.  There's a reason beer, not wine, is drunk with nachos and pretzels.  Beer and salt have always been, and always will be, best friends.

McGrath, Caitlin. Salted Coffee You Say? CHOW Blog.
Villazon, Luis. FOCUS Science & Technology.
Twang Beersalt