Are Shandies, Radlers and Hard Root Beers The New Alcopops?
It wasn’t too long ago that a new line of malt beverages hit the store shelves, known to industry followers and professionals as “alcopops.” For those not familiar, basically brands like Bacardi, Smirnoff, Zima, Colt 45 came out with bottled malt beverages, often times with fruit flavors, that were “crafted” to have the strength of a bottle of beer, but essentially the sweetness of soda.
These items, along with sweetened hard ciders and hard lemonades gained a lot of traction in the market place, and there’s no secret as to why. These appealed to new drinkers and young drinkers. We also can’t pretend to not know that these products are highly popular with underage drinkers. It’s almost a rite of passage to adulthood to drink low quality, often times overly sweet alcoholic beverages.
Fast forward to the last two years, and there has been a rebirth of malt beverages that fall under the sweet beverage category, and no doubt appeal to those who find beer, wine and spirits to be too harsh, sharp and or bitter.
The beverages I’m referring to are shandy, radler and hard root beer. Here are the definitions of the three:
“Shandy is beer mixed with a soft drink, carbonated lemonade, ginger beer, ginger ale, or apple juice or orange juice. The proportions of the two ingredients are adjusted to taste, usually half-and-half.”
“Radler (German for “cyclist”) has a long history in German-speaking regions. It commonly consists of a 50:50 mixture of beer and sparkling lemonade.”
And while I couldn’t find an exact definition of “Hard Root Beer”, I can tell you it is an alcoholic version of the popular soda pop Root Beer.
So while there is a bit of history behind these three sweet beverages, these have made a popular resurgence in the middle of the craft beer barrel race/shelf war. While I would expect a large corporate beverage maker to produce this much like the Smirnoff Ices of yesterday, I’m taken aback by the fact that craft brewers are hopping on this sugary bandwagon.
I can only think of one reason why an established craft brewer would produce one of these beverages: broadening their appeal to a younger, non-beer liking audience. I get it. It’s very competitive out there. Not only do craft brewers have to battle it out for shelf space against the wall of Bud Light, they are competing heavily now with fellow craft brewers for precious shelf space.
While these products might have a halo effect, and lead a young palate to the tasty craft beer, no doubt will the appeal of these beverages open the eyes of the underage drinker much like our beloved alcopop.
My gut feeling, as a purist/loyalist, is that these are not beers, and shouldn’t be sharing the spotlight with beer. I might be overthinking it, but I feel a big wave of these coming on the scene with the popularity of all the radlers and more specifically, the “Not Your Father’s Root Beer” taking the world by storm. It will be interesting to see where this goes and if any big players follow suit to up their barrelage and shelf presence. I don’t hate them or want to see them go away, I’m just leary of where this is heading.
We look forward to your thoughts on this new trend. Feel free to sound off in our comment section below, or on social media.