Guess who’s back. Back again.
(If you didn’t start singing along in your head, or at least immediately recognize that song, we probably can’t be friends. Kidding. I’m kiiiidding. Kinda.)
But here I am! Back again! To the blog. Da blahg. This cozy little corner of mine where I talk to myself but pretend I’m talking to you, my invisible internet friends, who may or may not be reading. (Here’s also where I try to convince myself that this is somehow wildly different from — and a totally normal adult thing to do — the stuffed animal tea parties I had as a girl. It’s ’cause you’re not imaginary … right?)
My rampant perfectionism, which can be both motivating and crippling (usually one or the other but sometimes both at the same time which is … uncomfortable, to say the least), has kept me away from this space because I haven’t wanted to share what I felt were mediocre photos or recipes. But it hasn’t kept me from learning, experimenting, playing, and challenging myself. I’ve been quiet in this space because I’ve been busy as hell everywhere else.
All of that is to say that my perfectionism, plus my super extra enthusiasm and general overboard-y-ness, did mean that it took me close to two months to complete this project. Which means I’m bringing you a “winter” recipe on the cusp of spring. (Definitely hoping, and planning for, future blog posts to take like 1/8 that amount of time. At least.)
Even though we’re springing forward this weekend and in 10 days we will “officially” welcome spring with the vernal equinox … let’s be honest. It’s still winter. There’s snow and wind and rain and it’s effing cold. Spring is coming, but at a snail’s pace. And though the citrus might not be stacked quite as high, there’s still plenty at the store. So, grab some oranges and pour yourself a beer, would ya?
I have eaten an excessive amount of mandarins this winter. I mean, I’ve eaten an excessive amount of all citrus, but mostly mandarins. They’re easy to peel, not too sweet, and the perfect size for snacking. And, lo, they make a great shandy.
I’m having a total food blogger moment, because I really have to tell you about the flavor of this shandy. It’s so satisfying! It feels summery (which we need right now, yes?). It’s refreshing, beachy, punchy, but totally understated. (Are you rolling your eyes at how food-blogger-y I am right now? It’s cool. I totally am.)
The first time I experimented with this flavor combo, I used Ghostfish Brewing‘s new hazy IPA It Came from the Haze. I first tried it on draught at the brewery and immediately bought a pack because I thought it would be the perfect base for this weird concoction. It was already so juicy, it just seemed obvious. But that’s a limited edition brew and when it came time for round 2 of photos (because I have yet to master the perfect shot on the first go, but I’m OK with that because the photographing & styling is honestly my favorite part), they were all sold out! So I picked up both a light blonde ale, Meteor Shower (which is legit like summer in a can) and a different IPA, Kick Step, and tested the “recipe” again with both.
I was CONVINCED I’d prefer the Meteor Shower version. I tasted them side-by-side and that first sip confirmed my suspicion. But then, surprisingly, sip after sip after sip, I really fell in love with the one with Kick Step. I honestly couldn’t get enough. And I was honestly shocked. (Because while I can’t totally pick a one-true-favorite Ghostfish beer, Meteor Shower hovers pretty high up on the list.)
It has everything to do with how all of these ingredients mingle together.
Meteor Shower is sparkling and crisp, but incredibly light. It has a lower ABV (4.5%) and a low IBU (18), which means it’s not very bitter. This makes it perfect for cooling off on a hot summer day, but when paired with stronger flavors, like juicy sweet mandarin and bold spicy ginger beer, the subtleties of Meteor Shower are lost … and the final drink felt flat.
Kick Step has a slightly higher ABV (5.5%), which is actually a bit low for IPAs (which can be anywhere from 5-7%, give or take). It also has a significantly higher IBU (60) than Meteor Shower. So even though they’re both lighter bodied, the bitterness and dry finish of Kick Step really compliments these non-alcoholic accouterments.
The real kicker for me (see what I did there?) is the complex hops flavor. It adds just the right subtle floral flavor that, to me, balances both the flavor and emotional palates of the drink.
At the risk of sounding ridiculously woo woo-y, please let me explain. Kick Step has an incredible hops profile that, when combined with the mandarin juice and ginger beer, adds a subtle floral essence that imparts both complexity and balance. Jumping from bitter to juicy to sweet to gingery-spicy-tingly flavors can be particularly energizing, and the floral notes from the hops evoke a sense of calm that just chills everything out. (Do I sound like a total hipster snob yet?)
Also, as a food marketing copywriter, I am well aware that “floral” is usually code for “soapy.” Rest assured, despite my excessive use of the f-word in that last paragraph, this shandy does not taste soapy. I promise.
It is sweet and zesty, bright and refreshing. Perfect whether you’re relaxing by the pool or staring out the window at two more feet of snow.
IPA Shandy with Mandarin Orange & Ginger Beer
4 ounces freshly squeezed mandarin orange juice (sub clementine or tangerine)
4 ounces non-alcoholic ginger beer
8 ounces Ghostfish Brewing Kick Step IPA (or your fave hoppy IPA)
Add juice to the chilled glass. Gently pour in the beer down the side of the glass at an angle (to prevent it from foaming). Give it a quick, gentle stir and then top with ginger beer. Stir again, sip and enjoy!