I opened the Traveler Strawberry Shandy first. It’s one of the variations on the shandy theme that the brewery is producing (this publication chose their flagship product, the Grapefruit Shandy, as its Beer Pick of the Week on the first of April). My first introduction to the shandy concept came in Britain ages ago. In those days such a concoction did not come pre-mixed. Their shandies were prepared by adding equal parts of what my hosts called “lemonade” to any lager nearby. Their lemonade was a bottled version closer to 7up than the sort of beverage we sold from roadside stands as kids. The result was refreshing, mildly alcoholic and not really as bad as I would have thought. More recently, a friend who grew up in Bavaria said that same general idea was called a Raddler where he came from.
Could a strawberry shandy be a bad idea? Quite possibly. I enjoy strawberries—in the morning on corn flakes and later in the day in a strawberry shortcake for which they are an essential ingredient. But in a beer? I was skeptical initially; ever more so when I saw that the base for this bottled beverage was a wheat beer, one of the few styles I don’t usually favor.
The experience wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. Pouring it into a glass I was relieved to find that wasn’t red or pink. It looked like a wheat beer—a bit cloudy, but in an appropriate shade of yellow or gold. There was a definite strawberry aroma and taste, which lasted all the way through ‘til the bottle was finished. The “wheatness” that I often find offensive wasn’t pronounced and the strawberry quotient seemed genuine, as opposed to artificial (indeed, the bottle does say “wheat ale brewed with lemon peel—with natural flavors and strawberry added”).
The beer was thirst quenching. In the mouth it felt full and almost creamy and it finished cleanly. Perhaps like Belgian lambic beers, which also incorporate fruit flavors, it could be delightful outdoors at a garden party on a warmer day. The Time Traveler Strawberry Shandy is a quality product. It just seemed a little out of place while watching a baseball game. Suggested baseball food pairing: a smoothie at The Garden in center field at AT&T Park. Time Traveler Strawberry Shandy: 4.4% alcohol, 7 IBUs. Available seasonally on draft and in 12-ounce bottles.
Next came the Hop Slice Session IPA from Deschutes. Its front label announced it was “India Pale Ale Brewed with Meyer Lemon.” In the glass it wasn’t really cloudy, yet neither was it crystal clear. The color seemed a dark gold or maybe a bronze, really, with a half-inch of foamy white head. The nose was quite floral, but seemed more hoppy than citrus-like. The lemon didn’t seem to show until I’d had a mouthful and, even then, it was more subtle than bold. Was this a summer alternative for the hard-core IPA drinker? Or was it a pleasant introduction to the world of IPAs for the drinker of American lagers? Could be either or both, I suppose. The taste was undeniably crisp and showed the Meyer lemon to good effect. I could drink more than one. Suggested baseball food: Crab sandwich on sourdough at Crazy Crab’z, also in center field at AT&T. Deschutes Hop Slice Session IPA: 4.5% alcohol, 55 IBUs. Available seasonally only in 12-ounce bottles.