Drinking in the south is simple. The weather, with a handful of seasonal swings, stays steady enough that it’s easy to stick to favorite beers and favorite types of beers. I had narrowed my focus to a point of detriment, falling into the same hophead pursuit that has choked away many-a palate; “If it’s less than 90 IBUs, it’s really not a beer…” or something similar and just as stupid.
However, moving to the North East last November taught me a few things. (That’s right … I left Texas.) Not only can I now shovel a snowy driveway like a boss, but I can also appreciate the stark differences between Fall, Winter and Spring. As the snow piled up, I stuck with my IPAs, but once the snow started melting, I found myself looking for anything that didn’t remind me of staring at the window at drifts and ice. Specifically, I missed walking up to an outdoor patio year-round and grabbing a cold Shiner Ruby Red on draft. That quickly went from nice change of pace to “why did I move to this place and what did I do to deserve this?” (Y’all … there’s a LOT of snow up here.)
I’m not one for sweet beer, so I decide to include some background on my mental state for this entirely subjective review experience. The good folks at the Travel Beer Co. had two summer shandys for review – the Curious Traveler Lemon Shandy and the Illusive Traveler Grapefruit Shandy – right around the time all this was coming to a head. They showed up just in time for a Fourth of July weekend get together by the pool, so I figured this was destiny.
I started with the Curious Traveler (lemon) and was impressed. I was expecting these beers to be cloyingly sweet and make me lose my will to drink halfway, but it was very well-balanced, striking the mid-spot between “someone dumped lemonade in a lazily-brewed hefeweizen” and “check out this intense lemonade we sprinkled with beer at the last minute.” The flavor and sweetness was not overpowering and I ended up drinking a couple of them very happily. I also had a few others try them and they agreed with the claims, with several shocked “hey, I’d actually drink that.” It was a tough, but fair, crowd. The beer was refreshing and balanced, especially with the subtle lime test helping it feel a bit different from homemade summer as well. It may not be for everyone, but it fit the day, my mood and the experience perfectly. Yay, America!
From there, I knew the Illusive Traveler (grapefruit) was either going to kill my cravings mentioned earlier or kill my spirit like so many overly-sweet grapefruit drinks are currently doing across the country, so I decided to jump in quickly once I finished my first bottle of the Curious. This one really shocked me – it had a strong grapefruit taste, but again, not the sugar rush I was bracing for, even after a whole bottle. I immediately grabbed another one (day-drinking is just the best) and finally scratched the spring/summer grapefruit itch that had been nagging me. The Illusive was definitely my favorite (and to be fair, the crowd had no such prejudices or cravings) and one I would recommend to anyone even entertaining the idea of a nice, lighter option to enjoy on a warm day.
Each of the shandy-style beers (including some promising sounding seasonal brews) has their own subpage on their website, so start here (travelerbeer.com) to find descriptions, recipes, for cocktails (which I regret being too overeager to even wait for), and other info. There’s also a zip code search tool so you can find their beers nearby, and they are pretty widely available; I’ve seen it on tap in at least 3 out of every 4 bars since. (Praise be.)
At the very least, if you ever find yourself in a situation where someone you love is about to purchase a canned margarita beer drink, stop them quickly, open one of these, and pour it down their gullet. Trust me; everyone involved will be better for it.
The Traveler Beer Company
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