Etymology of a Radler

The Beer of Summer
Words by Alexa Daugherty

After braving the challenge of a mountain (or a long, flat Illinois plain) TSH summer cyclists – or, in German, ‘Radlers’ – have been rewarded with an easy choice of refreshment: Stiegl of the same cycling-based name. Not so much a function of our own beer-knowledge as it is a function of ubiquity, the Stiegl Radler is most decidedly The Beer of the Summer.

Better yet, Radler is The Beer of Biking. In post World War I Germany, there was a biking boom. This led Herr Franz Xaver Kugler, an enterprising German, to build a bike path for other Germans. Knowing what his countrymen liked, this path went straight from Munich to a beer hall – his beer hall – the Kugler Alm.

Fortunately for the future of summertime refreshment, Herr Kugler underestimated just how popular his shady shandy path would be. One Saturday in June 1922 its reported that 13,000 cyclists arrived at Kugler Alm’s doors, requesting some thirst quenching beverage (Editor’s Note: In a pre-Gatorade German world ‘beverage’ means beer).

Short stocked and unable to appease such a mass of arid Bavarian riders, Herr Kugler had the fresh idea to mix lemon-lime soda with his traditional beer. With this, Kugler invented the ‘Radlermass.’ A 50/50 mix, this full liter drink was purportedly light enough to stop cyclists from falling off their bikes en route home, but tasty enough to encourage high sales. Here at TSH we question if the German consumers were ever able to zig zag away from such tasty fair.

Still, some biker did eventually get away from the true Hansel & Gretel home and was able to spread word of the delightful Radler mass for masses of Radlers. Herr Kugler’s spot is still around today; garnering a rating of ‘4 ½ beers’ from which is about as much as you’re entitled to drink after a re-enactment of thrilled cyclists’ radler-and-sweat-soaked beginnings.