Summer Sipping: Radlers in Canada

The WineCollective not-so definitive ranking of Radlers, available at Highfield.


The German Beer Institute (yes it exists) defines Radlermass (aka Radler in North America) a beverage that is a half-and-half mix of blond lager, usually Pils or Helles, and lemonade and/or fruit juice such as grapefruit. This drink originated in Bavaria in the early 20th century, but it is now bottled and canned premixed and available in all of Germany.

Literally, Radler means cyclist and mass means a litre of beer, which makes a little more sense when you discover their initial creation.

Radlers were invented by Franz Xaver Kugler, an innkeeper, who opened a bar outside of Munich in the late 1800s. After WWI, bicycle riding became very popular and Herr Kugler’s bar was on a popular bike path. As legend has it, Herr mixed lemon soda water with beer to improve his inventory of beer so to not run out.


When mixing this lemon soda with his remaining beer at a 50/50 ratio, Herr proudly declared that he had invented this concoction deliberately just for the cyclists so that they would not fall off their bikes on their way home. He called the mixture a Radlermass.

This is not the first time beer had been mixed with other substances. Shandy in the UK is a mixture of beer and ginger beer and even in Canada we have beer mixed with a Caesar. However, the unique characteristics of an enjoyable blond lager and refreshing juice has made Radlers the go-to summer drink this year!

So, while WineCollective loves its summer wines (Rose is the appropriate answer here), we also love Radlers and have recently had a blind tasting of four of the most popular Radlers available at Highfield by WineCollective. This tasting was made up of twelve people who simply enough, tasted the radlers one at a time and identified the one they liked the most and the least.


Winner: Waterloo Radler

Made in Ontario and recently awarded a gold medal from the 2015 Monde Selection, the Waterloo Radler was the big winner garnering the most first place votes. The Waterloo was significantly sweeter than some of the other radlers, and this is likely due to the addition of high fructose corn syrup to the mixture. Also, while it markets itself as “grapefruit” grape juice concentrate is actually the second ingredient. Waterloo was the only radler to not receive a “liked it the least” vote from our esteemed panel as well. It also has the highest alcohol level in the group at 3.1%.

Ingredients: Beer, Grape Juice Concentrate, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Grapefruit Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid, Flavour.


Runner Up: Stiegl Radler

The German original, but not really because it’s actually Austrian. When most people think radlers they think Stiegl, as this is by far the most prevalent option out in the general public right now. This Austrian import was the runner up with the second most first place scores but also a couple of “liked it least” scores in there as well. A more polarizing radler made from Stiegl Goldbrau beer and lemonade. It is significantly less sweet than the Waterloo with more of a lemon, lime taste than grapefruit. Brewed in accordance with the Bavarian purity laws, this is a more straight up example of a radler.

Ingredients: Beer, Lemonade


Third Place: Bavaria Grapefruit Radler 

Confusing all around. Not Bavarian, actually brewed in the Netherlands. Grapefruit radler, but actually shows it’s ingredients as lemonade with elderberry flavour. The lightest of the radlers, with only a 2.0% alcohol content. This one skated through in the middle, eliciting neither a love it or hate it sentiment from our dozen tasters. Only one person ranked it the best and one ranked it at the bottom, with no strong feelings either way.


Fourth Place: Tree Brewing Grapefruit Radler

Now talk about polarizing! Brewed in Kelowna, the Tree Brewing Radler is a love it or hate it affair. Garnering almost solely “best” or “worst” ratings with only two tasters in between. Most tasters found the grapefruit taste to be too strong and too tart, which isn’t surprising given the ingredient list is: 50% grapefruit juice, 50% beer. That’s it. For full disclosure, this was my favourite radler, it was tarter and less sweet than the Waterloo and has just the right amount of kick coming in at 2.5%. You can also get 40% of your daily vitamin C intake with one of these.

Ingredients: Beer, Grapefruit juice

While the majority of our WineCollective tasters preferred the sweeter, higher alcohol Waterloo Radler (North American flavour profile anyone?) we found that all of the radlers here would be huge hits as the summer rolls on.

We stock a wide selection of radlers (including a couple not tasted here) in Highfield by WineCollective. Pop by and pick up one, or four, and enjoy them outside as the perfect drink for summer heat.