Lemon beers: Not what they seem

by Lorraine Williamson
lemon beers

As continue through August in the midst of yet another heatwave, beer consumption soars. Many of us prefer light, smooth, and refreshing beers… like lemon beers.

However, the latest study by consumer organisation, OCU shows that they are not all the same and that the presence of lemon is actually minimal. If you want to discover what the most common lemon beers in supermarkets are like, read on.

Lemon beers have experienced a significant surge in popularity, especially during the summer. The majority of beer manufacturers have already introduced their lemon-infused versions, better known as Shandys (in the UK) or Radlers. But this isn’t new; for decades, bars have served beers mixed with soda or lemon-flavored beverages, the popular “claras” or “claras con limón,” which, depending on the region, are also known as “pika,” “lejía,” or “champú.”

Where does lemon beer originate?

Although it might seem like a Spanish invention, the reality is that Radlers were invented in Bavaria (southern Germany) in the early 20th century during a cycling race, where beer was mixed with lemonade. Meanwhile, Shandies come from the UK, where centuries ago, they brewed a beer with ginger that was later replaced by lemonade. Unfortunately, the reality today is different, as the “traditional lemon juice” has taken a mostly symbolic place, at best.

Little lemon and a lot of soda

At OCU, they explored the market to examine canned lemon beers and found several surprises. The first was the limited presence of lemon juice: instead, they found sugary and flavoured soda. The second surprise was that the terms Radler and Shandy were used to create different products. Let’s see how they differ:


These are beers with an alcohol content ranging from 2% to 3.2% by volume, about half of a traditional beer. Regarding the amount of juice, there’s a range: from Radlers made without any juice, only with flavours – like Radler Perlenbacher (Lidl) – to those with a minimal amount of juice – like Damm Lemon, which only contains 0.4% juice – to the more “generous” ones with 5% juice, such as Radler Ambar and Radler Saerbrau (Carrefour).


These are beers with an alcohol content lower than 1% by volume, comparable to a traditional “alcohol-free” beer. In this group, there’s no presence of lemon juice; only flavours are added.

0.0% lemon beers

This category includes some Radlers or lemon beers that contain no alcohol. All analysed beers in this group contain a small amount of juice, not exceeding 4%.

Are they a healthier option?

Many people might think that these types of beers are healthier than a traditional beer, and while there’s some truth to that, it’s not always the case. Compared to a traditional beer, they contain less alcohol, but their production includes the presence of sugary sodas:

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  • This results in Radlers having a higher calorie content than a classic beer, specifically an average of 12% more, with approximately 145 kcal per can.
  • Shandies reduce their alcohol content and lower their calories to an average of 110 kcal per can, 15% less than a classic beer.
  • Radler 0.0% beers have 89 kcal per can, 32% less than a classic beer.

The healthiest option is undoubtedly the 0.0% alcohol version, but it’s important to note that a can of lemon beer can contain as much sugar as three packets of sugar. There are also sweetened versions, which can reduce sugar but often include artificial sweeteners like acesulfame K or sucralose, which OCU doesn’t recommend.

What´s to like about lemon beers:
  • Their lower alcohol content, lower than a classic beer.
  • They are lighter and more refreshing, ideal for the summer.
What´s not to like:
  • The minimal amount of lemon juice.
  • The high presence of additives.
  • The added sugar.

From €0.36 to €0.76 per can on average

When it comes to choosing between a Radler and a Shandy, there’s little price variation – we don’t see significant differences. The price difference comes down to the brand type – store brands versus traditional brands. On average, a store-brand Radler or Shandy costs around €0.36 per can (€1.09/litre), while traditional brands increase their price, more than doubling it to an average of €0.76 per can (€2.3/litre), 110% more expensive.

Related: Traditional Spanish summer drinks

If you want to know how to buy your beers (or other items) at the best price, you can use the OCU app, your best companion in the supermarket. Just go to your AppStore, and search for OCU Market.

Prepare a true lemon beer

There are few things as simple as making a genuine lemon beer at home. To do this, all you need to do is choose your favourite beer and mix one part beer with one part lemonade. For the lemonade, all you need to do is squeeze some lemons, and to the obtained juice, add double the amount of water and a bit of sugar.

Recipe example:
  • 200 ml lemon juice
  • 400 ml water
  • 30 g sugar

You can also mix it up by substituting the juice of one lemon with a lime, add a strawberry for a touch of colour, or include mint or peppermint leaves to the mixture, according to your preference. You can also substitute some of the water with crushed ice to make it slushy


Also read: The best supermarket beer in Spain costs 30 cents

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