the cool kids

i've been drinking beer for a long time...could it be 12 years now? i am starting to feel like i have this better understanding - a fluency really - about what to order based on my moods, the weather, the occasion, and so on.

standing in front of a case stocked to the teeth with hundreds of fantastic bottles no longer gives me that weird choice anxiety. even the bearded beer dude coming over to chat feels less intimidating now that i can accept that he's not showing off - he just gets true smiles from sharing all his nerdy, sudsy wisdom.

it's no brewmaster geeky secret, though, that as temperatures rise lighter, crispier, often wheat-y beers come into vogue. a glass of berliner weisse or super cold pale ale in blue skied july is divine, melting the edges of even the most gnarly humidity induced angst. much like music selection and lighting schemes, the right beer at the right time can really pull everything together.

but where to go when the mercury reaches sadistic new heights and that coriander flecked white beer might as well be a coffee porter? when the only food that can rouse the least bit of your appetite is raw fruit? when the only energy you can expend is staggering towards a cold shower like a sweaty zombie?

now pull yourself together, man! it's Shandy Time. so round up some fresh fruits, cold beers, and a fistful of fresh herbs and get on this road to recovery. shandies are all the rage in philadelphia this summer, popping up at menus high brow and low. of course i've sampled a few of these offerings, and while the good ones are indeed quite good (the jolly rancher inspired watermelon shandy at morgan's pier and the lemonhead scented one at pub & kitchen are two of the more memorable), but they're often too cloying for my taste. sweetness alone does not equal refreshment for me, quite the contrary, so i thought through a way to find more balance in this juicy beer cocktail (oh, could there be any three words more lovely together??), and this is where i ended up.

instead of starting with an already-fruited beer, i cracked a lovable, affordable, and fuss free standard: sly fox royal weisse. allagash white or walt wit would do just fine, too. since some distinct flavors are going in the mix, a beer of too high quality or rarity might be overwrought. keep it simple, as this cold one may be a matter of survival.

Watermelon Rosemary Shandies
~ makes 4
~takes 5 or 10 minutes, depending on how quick/slow you're moving

a 6 pack of sly fox royal weisse (you'll only need 3 for this recipe, but you'll want a second round, trust me)
about 4 cups of watermelon, seeds optional
2 lemons
3 sprigs of rosemary, leaves stripped off the stems
2 tablespoons rice syrup (another sweetener is fine...just keep the ratio low so you don't make the simple syrup too sweet)

- bring about a 1/4 cup of water to a boil and add the rice syrup or other sweetener. stir til dissolved and take off the heat. add the rosemary and let it steep while it cools. you want to ideally get a lot of herbal flavor, so the longer the better.

- roughly chop the watermelon and puree in a food processor or blender. whiz the hell out of it. strain the juice through a mesh sieve. if you don't mind a texture-y drink, leaving the pulp in could be good, too.

- roll the lemons under your palm to get their juices flowing. cut each in half.

- fill 4 pint glasses with ice. pour the beer about 2/3 of the way up, then squeeze half a lemon in each glass. a seed or two might fall in but that's ok. top off each glass with a healthy slug of watermelon juice, then stir in teaspoon or two of the rosemary syrup. taste and adjust with little splashes of beer, juice or syrup til those suckers are right where you want them. if there's a little beer left over in one of the three cans you opened, well that's just a little bonus for you being such an awesome friend to share these drinks with your pals in their time of need.

- if, at the end of all this there is leftover watermelon juice, rejoice! a wee splash added to even the most sub-par light beer brings it to a sick new level of deliciousness.

viva variations: the lemons can be replaced with limes, or any other sour citrus (seville oranges at brunch time?), and of course the secondary fruit can be swapped to suite your tastes. watermelons are such a snap to puree and strain, though, and blend with the beer so happily, that i cannot recommend them enough. and the herbs really brings it all home, adding some bass to the constant high note that all the sweet and sourness brings. a shandy in your hand and an episode of Frozen Planet cued up, and hey look! you're making it through the heat in one piece.


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