Is global warming getting you down? Alan Newman suggests you cool down with his Curious Traveler, a shandy. Traditionally, this word has meant a beer cocktail, part ale and part lemonade (although in Europe, where the drink is popular, “lemonade” can mean a soft drink like 7-Up or Sprite).
Curious Traveler breaks the mold. As Newman explains, “Curious Traveler starts with a true craft wheat beer to which we add real lemon and real lime – quite a refresher, if I do say so myself.”Pureed fruit, added to the conditioning tanks during fermentation, lends a tart fruit flavor that’s more reminiscent of a homemade lemonade or lemon meringue than a fizzy soda pop.
The brand, as of press time, is a draft-only product, but Newman’s House of Shandy is rolling out a six-pack version “even as we speak.” In late August, he plans to introduce his second product, Tenacious Traveler, a ginger-and-honey flavored shandy, in six-packs only. Curious Traveler has been in 11 markets since April, including DC and Northern Virginia.
Newman has had his finger on the pulse of the craft beer drinker since he founded Magic Hat Brewing Co. in South Burlington, Vt. in 1994. But he exited Magic Hat two years ago when the company was sold to a conglomerate called North American Breweries. It was not an amicable breakup, and Newman never thought he would re-enter the beer business. A phone call from Jim Koch, chairman of Boston Beer Co. (the nation’s largest craft brewer), led him to reconsider.
Koch recounts, “We decided Alchemy & Science [Newman’s company] should be a subsidiary of Boston Beer and that Alan should run it. I told him the mission should be to make great craft beer in any way, place or style that he thought made sense.” So began House of Shandy.
The partnership seems to be working. Not only do fellow New Englanders Newman and Koch market great beer, but they both know how to sell it with their flamboyant personalities. Newman, at Magic Hat, was well known for his psychedelic labels and oddball brand names like Humble Patience, Wacko, Circus Boy and Blind Faith. Koch appears in his own TV commercials and has been known to cool off by diving into a vat of stale beer (“I’ve been doing it for 20 years to raise money for charity,” he laughs).
“I’ve been seeing them and drinking them in Europe for more than 30 years,” Newman says of shandies, the partnership’s first venture. “When we started Magic Hat, my partner and I wanted to do a shandy, but could not figure out how to brew one that we would drink.”
Newman’s shandies will face stiff competition from products like Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy. Anheuser-Busch has also entered the market with Shock Top Lemon Shandy, flavored with spices as well as lemons. Even Boston Beer introduced its own version, called Porch Rocker, earlier this summer. Koch explains that his was a “radler,” a lager-and-lemon blend popular in Germany.
Koch and Newman play down the competitive aspects. “I think what Curious Traveler has done is add more options for drinkers,” states Koch. Curious Traveler, reports Newman, will be a year-round product, not just a summer seasonal like the brands mentioned above. “I believe when people find a beer they like, they like it and will drink it year round,” he says, citing Magic Hat #9 and Blue Moon Belgian White as examples.
Newman has other irons in the fire. He recently took over a struggling Los Angeles brewery called Angel City Brewing Co., believing the nation’s second largest city is underserved by the craft beer industry. He adds, “We have at least three to four new businesses ideas in various levels of development but I cannot tell at this point which, if any, will make it to the light of day – and, if they reach the market, will they be successful? Tune in for the news at 11:00!”
For more information about House of Shandy, visit www.houseofshandy.com.