Take a leap into shandies on Leap Day

Dawn Riffenburg
The Detroit News

Shandies taste like summer, but don't be fooled by their appearance in Metro Detroit this month.

Leinenkugel Brewing Co. is well-known for its summer shandies but are giving the popular beverage a twist. Jake Leinenkugel, retired president of the brewing company, (who prefers just to go by "beer guy") was recently in Detroit to kick off the brewing company's Leap into Shandy on the Leap Day event. On Feb. 29, Leinenkugel will celebrate the release of its seasonal shandies, including a new addition to the lineup: grapefruit shandy.

A shandy is traditionally a beer mixed with something extra -- lemonade, soda, ginger ale.

Leinenkugel brought news of the new shandy to Detroit, a city he says has received the company well.

"Detroit's become a great city for us," said Leinenkugel, a Wisconsin guy. "It's an area we never thought we'd sell so much Leinenkugel beer."

He said he's been making the trip to Detroit for a number of years.

"It's so cool to watch how your entire downtown is being transformed," he said. The Twins fan said he loves to come to Detroit for a Tigers-Twins game each summer "and drink some Leinenkugel, of course."

Leinenkugel said the company introduced summer shandy to America eight years ago and had no idea it would be so well-received. "It's become out number one lead national brand," he said. "Summer shandy is light, refreshing, easy to drink." At around 4% ABV, you can have a few without feeling it too much.

That popularity lead the company to explore variations on the theme: There's cranberry-ginger in the late fall, harvest patch (pumpkin spice) for fall, and the brewing team challenged itself to come up with some wild and crazy flavors as well -- notably, Leinenkugel said, a watermelon shandy available only in variety packs.

His hopes are high for the grapefruit shandy, which he described as having a lot of IPA hoppiness with grapefruit elements. It's in stores and on tap right now around the Detroit area, and distributors held a kickoff "shandy rally" last weekend.

"I'm looking forward to coming back when it's 80 degrees and watching a ballgame and drinking a shandy," Leinenkugel said. Good thing he didn't make his trip this week, when Metro Detroit is bracing for 6 or more inches of snow by week's end.