Like most women, I wasn't born a beer fan. I came of age drinking whatever tasted least like alcohol: fruit-flavored wine coolers, mimosas, forgotten bottles of coffee liquors my parents received each year as Christmas gifts. Drinking then was frequently an excuse to eat whatever salty snacks could be paired with the drinking, and I thought of beer only as a man's drink. Its bitterness was something that manhood required getting used to but from which I was pleasantly excused.
Sometime in my early twenties though, my attitude toward beer began to change. It was a matter of simple economics. As a student, I could splurge on a Tecate or two but a Veuve Clicquot with fresh squeezed orange juice was clearly beyond my budget. I started slowly, on the gateway drink: the Shandy.
Equal parts beer and lemon-lime or ginger soda, the Shandy is a summer drink. In Los Angeles, that meant I could drink a Shandy year round. I found a dive bar with a sense of humor that served 32 ounce "mini" Shandies for $3, and I learned that a light lager or pilsner wasn't just men's territory. In time, I cut back on the soda and ordered my Shandies with just a splash of diet-7Up. Once I got to grad school, I left behind the soda entirely, ratcheted up my quotient for hops, and joined the boys for IPAs after classes.
Though I've outgrown Shandies, bars throughout Los Angeles seem to be bringing them back. The beer cocktail resurgence has every third hipster in skinny jeans sipping a Shandy or Michelada (beer, lime juice, tomato juice, and hot sauce) over eggs benedict at brunch. Gastropubs are dressing up classic beer cocktails with everything from anejo tequilas and small batch bourbons to hibiscus juice and agave syrup. One of my favorite new Westside bars is gaining traction on the Stag Hag, basically a cousin to the Tijuana Manhattan, if only said cousin arrived dressed in a cherry beer reduction instead of sweet vermouth.
Will Shandies and Micheledas one day steal the spotlight from worn out trends like Cosmos and Appletinis or even something like the time-tested Gin & Tonic? Probably not. But the beer cocktail buzz throughout the city tells me Shandies are well on their way to indoctrinating the next generation of female beer drinkers.
Lisa P. Sutton earned an MFA in writing from University of California, Irvine and a JD from Boston University School of Law. She lives and drinks in Los Angeles.