The History Of The Shandy And Shandy Gaff.
The Shandy Gaff is the oldest known version of the shandy-style beer cocktails. The Shandy Gaff is a 1:1 strong or pale ale beer mixed with ginger beer. The earliest printed recipe I could find for the Shandy Gaff is in the 1888 Harry Johnson’s new And Improved Bartender’s Manual. Every recipe I can see from 1888 to 1972 refers to the cocktail as a Shandy Gaff and not simply a Shandy, and they are all made with beer and ginger ale. Although the most popular shandy mixer today is not ginger beer but lemonade. The kind of lemonade used depends on the region.
Americans use the more regionally typical non-carbonated lemonade (like a child’s lemonade stand-style lemonade), the British use clear carbonated lemonade (7Up or Sprite), and the german style uses the cloudy carbonated lemonades (Italian soda style lemonade). The German-style is my favorite way to make it. The first account I could find of the cocktail being called a shandy and make with sparkling lemonade is in a 1989 research paper by John Balding called “We Teach Them How to Drink!” Interestingly that research paper argues that British children will start drinking at young ages anyway, so parents need to teach them responsible ways to drink when they are young. The Shandy is described as gateway alcohol since it is so easy to drink.
The commonly told history of how the lemonade was first mixed with beer comes from Munich, Germany. The story goes that a Pub owner outside Munich was in danger of running out of beer when countless cyclists stopped at his pub for a drink. To avoid running out of beer, he mixed the local lager with lemonade and sold it as the Radlermass. Radlermass is german for “cyclist liter.” The other german name I find for beer and lemonade is Alsterwasser. This is a reference to the Alster River in northern Germany. The article referencing these two german shandies referred to them as tractor or field beers. They were intended as session drinks with a low ABV but enough sugar and calories so that they could be consumed while doing hard work. They could refresh and nourish a sweaty field worker without inhibiting them mentally.