Leinenkugel Brewing Company – Leine Orange Shandy

Leinenkugel Brewing Company – Leine Orange Shandy                       by:  Falon Hanley

It was the first Saturday of June, 1922, a scorching spring day in the Alpine foothills of Upper Bavaria. Situated on the western edge of Perlacher Forest, Kugler Alm Biergarten was overrun by a throng of thirsty bicyclists demanding refreshment, and innkeeper Franz Kugler was not prepared. Though he had arranged for the construction of a bike trail that led right to the Kugler Alm’s front door, he never anticipated the crush of 13,000 radlers descending upon his watering hole at once.  As he rushed to serve his parched patrons, Kugler fretted over his quickly diminishing supply of brew. Inspiration struck when he recalled the several thousand bottles of zitronenlimonade he had stored away in the cellar. The sparkling lemon soda was, until then, of no interest to the beer-loving Bavarian public and Kugler could not figure out how to dispose of the useless inventory. Desperate to keep the radlers happy—they were the lifeblood of his business—the savvy gastronome decided to cut his dark brew with the lemon soda and name it Radlermass, which literally translates to “cyclist’s liter.” Kugler fibbed, telling his patrons he purposefully crafted this thirst-quenching, low alcohol shandy for the radlers. After all, they needed to make it back down the hills without falling off their bikes! The cyclists bought Kugler’s story, and the Radlermass took off, its popularity spreading throughout Bavaria and eventually, all of Germany.

When Kugler invented his Radlermass, the concept of shandy was nothing new to Europe. Variations of shandy were already being swigged by Europeans all throughout the continent for years. The English version, shandygaff, was made with equal parts ale and ginger beer. But when the Leinenkugel brothers of the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company decided in 2007 to create a shandy for the American market, they resolved to stay true to their Bavarian roots. What they came up with was Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, an American twist on Franz Kugler’s original German radler.

The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company has a rich history of its own. In 1867, Jacob Leinenkugel, Bavarian immigrant and descendant of a long line of brewmasters, founded the original Leinenkugel Brewery in the logging town of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin with his business partner, John Miller. The soil of northern Wisconsin was just right for growing hops and grains, the rivers and Big Eddy Springs provided the perfect source for pure water, and there was no shortage of thirsty lumberjacks and sawmill workers desiring alcoholic refreshment. The brewery’s beginnings were humble—Jacob and John were the only employees, and the first barrels were delivered to neighboring saloons by cart and a horse named Kate. Seventeen years later, when John Miller sold his share of the company to Jacob Leinenkugel, Jacob enlisted the help of his wife and children to keep the brewery going. Under the Leinenkugel family, the company continued to grow. Even during the Prohibition Era, when most breweries were forced to shutter their doors, the Leinenkugel’s brewery adapted by creating Leino, a non-alcoholic “near-beer” and bottling soda water. By the time the death knell of Prohibition had sounded, the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company was the largest bottler of soda water in the region.

Five generations later, the Leinenkugel Brewing Company is still thriving under the management of brothers Jake and John Leinenkugel. In 1987, the company merged with beer giant, Miller Brewing Company, allowing the company to expand its reach throughout the upper Midwest, which remains the company’s core market, even as recognition of the Leinenkugel brand spreads rapidly into broader U.S. markets.

In fact, the status of the Leinenkugel brand has skyrocketed within the last few years, thanks in no small part to the popularity of its Summer Shandy. Sales of Summer Shandy, Leine’s take on the traditional German radler, account for one-third of the company’s total sales volume, despite being available only five months out of the year.

So what is a shandy fan to do during the bitter months? Until now, Leine’s lovers would have to safeguard their fall and winter supply by stocking up during the spring and summer. Thankfully, for those who just can’t do without their Leine’s branded shandy no matter the time of year, hoarding is no longer necessary.

Leinenkugel Brewing Company’s Orange Shandy, previously available only in variety packs, is now being offered on its own from September through February. Inspired by the orange harvest, it is a substantial, multi-character brew that conjures visions of vibrant autumn days and cozy winter nights. Orange Shandy even looks like autumn, pouring a hazy, tony orange color. True to its name, the aroma delivers on the orange as well. Brewed with cluster hops and pale and wheat malts, its malt character is a bit more prominent than that of its Summer Shandy counterpart. The taste is enhanced by a spicy, peppery note that harmonizes nicely with the tangy, citrusy characters. It finishes clean, with just a hint of lingering orange sweetness.

Orange Shandy is great with anything spicy or toasty. Try it with toasted coconut shrimp or your favorite Thai noodle dish. If you’re BBQing this Labor Day, Orange Shandy provides the perfect complement to barbecued brisket and, mixed with vinaigrette, makes for a zesty fruit salad dressing. For those who really want to get creative, check out Peg’s Kitchen’s pancake recipe at

Proudly distributed by Wilson-McGinley, Leinenkugel’s Orange Shandy is available September through February in 12- and 16-ounce cans, 12-ounce bottles and on draft at your favorite watering hole.