Today is officially the first day of Fall. It’s been obvious in the past week or so that the cooler weather is moving in. This weekend my lovely wife was out of town, so I took the opportunity to clean out the fridge. By that I mean I went through the beer in the fridge and drank anything summery that was left over to make room for a big purchase of fall beers. One of the beers was Illusive Traveler, the grapefruit flavored shandy from Traveler Beer Company in Burlington, VT. This summer was the first time I really gave the shandy style a shot and overall I had mixed opinions. When done well a shandy can be a light, refreshing and flavorful alternative to other beer styles. When done poorly they can be cloyingly sweet and unappealing. Traveler seems to understand the difference, infusing their beer with tons of fruit flavor without dumping in sugar that overwhelms the taste of the beer. Traveler makes a number of shandy flavors, Illusive Traveler is an American wheat ale brewed with real grapefruit juice.
Traveler Beer Company Illusive Traveler pours a cloudy orange tinted yellow with a mild white head. The smell is all grapefruit, but real grapefruit not the fake grapefruit flavoring. The grapefruit leads the flavor but it isn’t overwhelming. The malts are noticeable, some notes of cracker and spicy wheat. The hops aren’t very apparent, but the tart flavor of the grapefruit juice acts as a reasonable substitute. Illusive Traveler is light, easy to drink, finishes clean and is very sessionable at 4.4% ABV. This is another solid example of a shandy from a company that specializes in the style. I personally prefer their lemon shandy Curious Traveler by a slight margin, but if you like grapefruit flavor more you should try this. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Traveler Beer reviews:
Traveler Beer Curious Traveler
There have been a few distinct trends in craft brewing this Spring and Summer, a clear one is the emergence of the shandy/radler as a popular beer style. These mixtures of beer with soda (typically lemon/lime but there are many variations) are popular in parts of Europe, but they were rare in the US until the last year or two. Now many brewers are mixing their lighter lagers with soda or sparkling fruit juices as there is clearly a market for this style. The Traveler Beer Company in Burlington, VT specializes in shandies. In fact, that is all they brew. Traveler Beer was founded with the goal of popularizing the shandy style in the US, and it looks like they’ve accomplished that goal in a relatively short time. Traveler’s flagship beer is Curious Traveler, a shandy brewed with fresh lemon and limes in the place of soda to give a more authentic citrus fruit flavor.
Traveler Brewing Curious Traveler Shandy pours a cloudy pale gold with a very mild white head. The smell is a ton of lemon followed by just a hint of sweetness. The citrus fruit leads the flavor too, but it tastes like a beer flavored with lemon and not straight lemonade (an important distinction that some shandies seem to miss). There are some bready malts and just a hint of bitterness that provides the “beer flavor”. Curious Traveler Shandy is very drinkable and refreshing. At 4.4% ABV it is easy to crush a few on a warm summer day, or the perfect way to mix it up a little while you day-drink. The finish is clean with just a touch of lemon left on the tongue. This is probably the best version of a shandy I’ve tasted (limited experience with the style, but still). Definitely worth picking up if you’d like to try something a little different. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Not long ago the Narragansett beer brand, originally brewed in 1890, was nearly dead. Once the most popular beer in New England and a major sponsor of the Red Sox, the brand had suffered a staggering decline in popularity since the 1970s. The physical brewery shut down in 1981 and production moved to Indiana. In 2005 a group of Rhode Island investors bought the Narragansett line and set out to revive it’s popularity. Although the new owners haven’t been able to open a Rhode Island brewery yet, they have revived the Narragansett name, contract brewing the traditional lager along with a series of seasonal and specialty beers. One of their newest creations is Del’s Shandy which is Narragansett lager mixed with the lemon concentrate used to make Del’s frozen lemonade. It is no surprise that the collaboration between two of the most iconic brands in Rhode Island was incredibly popular. The first run sold out extremely fast. Now that they’ve upped production you can find Narragansett Del’s Shandy in their popular 16 oz. tallboy cans.
Narragansett Del’s Shandy pours a clear light yellow with a moderate white head. The smell is all lemon, if you put this next to a glass of lemonade and asked me to tell which was which by smell I wouldn’t be able to. The lemon comes through strongly in the flavor too, along with a touch of sweetness. Even with all of the lemon, this is clearly a beer, it has the solid malt backbone of a flavorful American style lager. Del’s Shandy is light and easy to drink, a great beer to sip on the porch. The finish is clean and a little dry, thirst quenching and refreshing. I can see why the shandy style has become popular this summer, it still tastes like beer but provides a nice change of pace. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.