Here’s an example. In 1922, in the little German village of Deisenhofen, a retired railroad worker named Franz Xaver Kugler opened an inn and beer garden he called the Kugleralm. Business was slow at first, but Herr Kugler had taken notice of the recent explosion in the popularity of bicycle riding, and he figured if he could establish his inn as a watering hole for cyclists, he’d fill the place in no time.
He was right. He cut a 12-mile trail through the woods that led folks from the outskirts of Munich right to the front door of his Kugleralm. And, just like that, on the first sunny summer Saturday, a crowd of thousands of thirsty cyclists rode into his beer garden! Which meant – mein Gott – that Herr Kugler didn’t have enough beer to satisfy them all.
Thinking quickly, he realized that he had several thousand bottles of lemon soda in his basement that he hadn’t been able to sell, and by mixing the soda 50/50 with beer, Kugler effectively doubled his inventory, and created the perfect low-alcohol, thirst-quenching beverage for rewarding a long ride. He called the concoction Radlermass (in German “Radler” means cyclist, and “Mass” mean a liter serving), and it has since become a Bavarian summer staple known simply as a Radler.
Not to be outdone, northern Germans created their own version, and of course they had to give it a new name. So if you ever find yourself thirsty in Hamburg and want a Radler, you have to order an “Alsterwasser,” a lemon soda/beer mixture named for the Alster river that flows through the city.
The two competing provincial names didn’t stay separate for long, they have since become so established that today lemon soda beers are packaged in two-sided cans that feature a bike-themed “Radler” on one side and a boating-themed “Alsterwasser” on the other.
Today, Europeans quench their thirst in lots of different ways in different places. In southern Germany, a mix of weissbier and lemon soda is called a “Russ.” In France, Switzerland and Belgium, a Radler is known as a “Panache.” In Austria, they mix beer with their national soda, Almdudler, which is a sort of a ginger ale version of a coke. And all across the continent, various beers and sodas are combined in a myriad of ways to create the Diesel, the Snakebite, the Mazout, and the Potsdamer.
Across the channel, the British have another name for beer mixed with lemon soda. And this name has since crossed the pond, and the drink has exploded in popularity in America.
And so this weekend, if the temperature soars and you need something more refreshing than a beer, check the menu or the store for your new favorite summertime word.