Occasionally, we all get a hankering for a lighter, less-expensive beer. Perhaps it’s the cheap cool they provide on a hotter summer day, or the easy, smooth drinkability as they glide down one’s gullet.
Many of the larger American macro-brew companies boast titles that liken themselves to being royalty; this, of course, can tend to cause uproarious scoffing in the company of fine craft-brew connoisseurs. Still, those who proudly call themselves consumers of what are truly considered to be finer beers know that there are plain and humble lagers canned on American soil which, though often paired among the least expensive brands at your local supermarket or alcoholic beverage store, hide golden (albeit foamy) treasure worthy of note.
For this reason, I’m proud to announce the first of a series of features that will be appearing here at Culture of Spirits written by my good friend Smoky Wydell (a.k.a. Dakota Waddell). “Smoky” is a history major living in Asheville, North Carolina, with a penchant for finer craft brews and traditional Southern sippin’-whiskies known for having a little more alcoholic content that their mid-shelf competitors. Nonetheless, having grown up in the rural Smokies of Western North Carolina (one might ruminate that this was the impetus for his nickname, at least in part), Waddell also maintains a bit of reverence for less expensive American lagers and “shwag beers” favored by the “high society” of the lower-middle class. Thus, it is with great delight that I introduce him to you with his first installment of “The Poor Man’s Palative: High Rolling Among the Lower Middle Class with Smoky Wydell.”
Have you ever been slaving away in the summer sun, basking in paltripolitan bliss, and said aloud, “Hot damn, I need a brew?” Coors Light or Pabst alone just wouldn’t cure the delirium of the onset of heat stroke—so what do you do? I recommend you try making a good old-fashioned Shandy Gaff.
Here in America where we like the cheap and inexpensive, most bartenders improvise, taking a few liberties with original recipes. The Shandy Gaff is no different; originally an invention of our friends across the pond, the English, they would simply take your favorite beer, mix it with a good quality ginger brew, and viola! The Shandy Gaff is born.
One night in recent memory, my ole’ buddy Micah Hanks (or Hank, as I affectionately call him) and I found a recipe for this beverage, though it was basically a poor man’s rendition: equal parts shwag-beer and ginger ale. As I sneered at the simplicity of the drink, I couldn’t help but be a little intrigued, since I consider myself also a “cocktail minimalist.” In fact, one of my favorite mixed drinks is a similar concoction, the Horse’s Neck, consisting of bourbon (preferably Wild Turkey 101) and ginger ale, served with a twist of orange or lemon peel. Thus, I’ve developed a liking for ginger ale in cocktails.
That being said, I like beer, too. Mix them? Shall we? Here the magic ensues…
This has since become one of my personal favorite “poor man’s drinks.” For a classic pairing, I recommend using equal parts Old Milwaukee and Schwepp’s Ginger Ale. Now (since it’s cold outside and you’re safe indoors) just imagine a mid-July afternoon filled with the sweat of pushing push-mowers and wielding weed-eaters, followed by the ritual known as the raking of the grass. Add the discovery of a delightful underground nest of yellow jackets, and a sprinkling of poison ivy… dear readers, are you miserable yet? How does one relieve this agony, you wonder? As the bartender says:
Pour 1 part favorite beer (I suggest something cheap and American)
with 1 part ginger ale (7- Up will do also, but go with Canada Dry or Reed’s if you can find it)
Bada bing, instant refreshment.
From one poor man to another, I bid you bottom’s up. Once you’ve had your first Shandy Gaff, you’ll down ‘em quicker than a dumpster-diving possum.
Dakota “Smoky” Waddell is a history major and micro-brew enthusiast. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.