Banks Shandy Sorrel

October 9, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | Filed under Brewer: Banks, Country: Barbados, Grade: F regular, Style: Spiced Beer.

1.5% ABV bottled

Fairway Market is where the Upper West Side’s finest go to grocery shop. Based on that sentence alone, the place looks absolutely nothing like what you might think it would. It’s a fucking zoo. And it’s not full of “weird” gourmet shit, just a lot of incredibly fresh and varied produce, cheeses from every animal that can be milked, countless coffee beans, a stellar meat, fish, and deli section, and as many oddball jarred culinary items as can possibly exist, all at amazingly low prices. Hey, even the rich like to save a little loot. Especially the elderly rich.

I absolutely detest trying to negotiate the place and its madding crowd, with all the small moving pushcart people on the brink of death, but I do anyways because they have a borderline sublime beer selection. We’re talking the best of the best from Belgium, Germany, the UK, and California. I think the absolute “worst” beer they have is Samuel Smith’s entire solid line. So when I was visiting a friend uptown the other day, you know I had to pop in. And what I saw blew my mind.

Nestled between some Stone and Ommegang bombers was this weird clear-bottled grenadine-colored beer.  Sure didn’t look like a beer, but indeed it was called a lager on the bottle. It looked like something more befitting my Ten Least Wanted List. Yet I absolutely had to have it.

I gleefully sprinted to the register, the same place where just a few months prior a girl had rung up a single 12-ounce bottle of Orval I was buying, saw that it cost $6.99 and then lifted it above her head and under the fluorescents so she could study it better.  After a dramatic ten seconds she turned to me with the most perplexed look on her face.

“This beer?”


“For 7 dolla?!  You know you can get a whole six-pack for that much.”

“Well, uh, it’s considered one of the best beers in the world.”

“I sure hope it gets you 7 dolla drunk,” she said as she swiped the beer on the bar code reader, shaking her head in disbelief.

Well this red cocotion didn’t ring up, in fact, if I recall, the cash register made a GOOOOOOOONG sound when the zebra code was swiped.

Time for a price check as the cashier sent an overaged bag boy to fetch the info. I usually do price checks myself as bag boys are incredibly slow and often monolingual (but obviously the wrong lingual for our purposes).  However, this time I decided to hold back.  Not a smart decision.  Fairway is also famous for incredibly long and slow-moving lines.  Lines that amass quickly, like nerds camping outside to meet Stan Lee at a ComiCon.

And indeed by now the queue behind me was building, a lot of pissed-off people staring at the douchebag holding things up, his red bottle of fluid still standing on the conveyer belt taunting them. Their eyes drove bullets through my head. Why do I put myself in these situations?  Oh right, because I am a maniac.

The woman behind me was a fetching late-twenties business women, sexy as hell in her skirted power suit, her hair down and slightly disheveled. She just wanted to get home to eat her pre-prepared dinner alone, watch “Gossip Girl,” and blow off losers on JDate. She had already slapped down the divisor stick, and her meager amount of groceries was already laid on the conveyor belt behind my single Stop-Sign-red brew.

With a cocked stance and anger in her contact-lensed eyes, she glared at the offending bottle. The bag boy was taking for-fucking-ever. The girl’s toe-tapping got more agitated, she was about to explode.  Finally, she spoke to me, in that jutting way the rich and over-educated but not too bright or tactful speak.

GIRL:  What. is that. thiiiiing?

Usually I’m pretty confident in my dealings with the fairer sex, but this time I couldn’t even make eye contact I was so ashamed by my purchase.

AARON: Not sure.

GIRL: (incredulous) Not. sure?!

AARON: Uhn-uh.

GIRL: Weeeeell, is it. a. soooooottta?

She grabbed the my beer and ogled it curiously like it was some ancient civilization’s artifact.

I paused for a second, skipped the formalities, and immediately went to my end game.

“Look, it’s a beer.  Just a beer.  And, I’m guessing, and hoping, it’s one teeeerrible beer.”

“Why. would. ya want. a teeeerrible bay-ear?”

“Because I write a very successful beer blog where I sometimes get a kick out of drinking terrible beers in order to write hilarious anecdotes and reviews about them.”  I grabbed my trusty pen from my pocket like the Sundance Kid whipping his guns from his belt, uncapped it, and wrote on her box of Wheat Thins (Low Sodium).

“Visit it tomorrow.”

For a millisecond, a millimeter of a grin came across her face as the bag boy finally returned with the price. I did a quick, keep-the-change pay, grabbed my beer, ducked my head, and left the store.

Shandy Sorrel is a Caribbean lager made by Banks brewery in Barbados, a place that seems to actually produce some adequate stuff.  It is colored (obv.) and flavored with artificial ingredients.   Also, sorrel, which with a little googling I come to find is a wild herb that supposedly tastes like sour strawberry.  I tasted something completely different.  Just last week I was visiting a friend’s fancy office and swiped a fistful of hard candies from one of her coworkers’ desks.  Later, while sucking on a cinnamon disc as I similtaneously drank a Diet Mountain Dew, I noticed a great taste sensation.  A big soda fan, I wondered why there is no cinnamon soda, at least as far as I know.  Well, Banks Shandy Sorrel is that cinnamon soda.  And, it’s not half bad.  But it’s not beer.  I think I was more sober after drinking it than I was before I started.  And then I noticed the ABV, 1.5%.  Good lord.

So while I actually kinda enjoyed the taste of this one, when your alcohol content is less than half as much as the pathetic Amstel Light, well, ya got trouble, my friends.  And in River City that means you get an…


3 Responses to “Banks Shandy Sorrel”

  1. amm002 says:

    God, the bottle alone looks terrible. The name reminds me of Leinie’s “Summer Shandy”…a putrid conconction of weak lager and lemonade concentrate.

  2. And that’s a bad picture. I couldn’t get a picture that perfectly captured the awful color of it.

    Oh, and I’ve had the Leiny Summer Shandy.

  3. Bobbie says:

    I tasted Banks Shandy in Guyana SA and it was bottled in a brown bottle…it did have a clove like taste that was very pleasant and I am told a very popular drink…
    I am visiting this site to determine if I tasted the sorrel or the ginger flavors of Banks…not sure that the Banks Beer from Barbados is the same formula…does anyone know

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