So Yeah, Dood: Lawnmower Beer
ed. note: this is the latest in an occasional series of columns by Ryan Boddy on something near and dear to the hearts of many sports fans — beer.
Summer being here, most brewers have entered reverse hibernation, estivation if you will. Most brew clubs don’t convene for “big brews” after May, and any beer that gets brewed tends to be of the lighter variety, in both color and richness.
Let’s face it; few people are interested in slugging down a robust porter in 95 degree heat with the humidity level hovering somewhere between steam bath and pressure cooker. We want beach beers, baseball beers, and back porch BBQ beers. We want beer that is refreshing, and that can be consumed in bulk without winding up passed out behind the push-mower.
Typically, this means light lagers like Pilseners, and American Light lagers. There are plenty of these beers commercially available, which is a good thing for the beginning or intermediate homebrewer because brewing them requires substantial refrigeration. Unless you live in Alaska or the Southern Hemisphere this time of the year, this entails modifying a refrigerator to include precise temperature control and the removal of racks to accommodate fermenters and kegs; obviously not something every brew dood is up for.
But there are other options besides lagers.
My favorite is the venerable Cream Ale, really the first truly American beer. It uses corn in the mashing process to lighten the flavor and color. There’s no actual dairy product in the beer, the name refers to the mouth-feel of the beer. It’s very similar to a Kölsch, a lighter bodied German ale, which is also a great summer beer but is all malt. Both of these beers were produced specifically to skirt the temperature requirements of the popular lagers of the 19th century while still producing a light beer.
The characteristic American wheat beers are also summer beers because they’re generally light in body, and a bit citric in flavor. Numerous bars serve Hefeweizens with a slice of lemon these days as well. Belgian Witbiers —or white ales— in comparison tend to have the same light body, but with more pronounced citrus flavored sharpness; no lemon required.
Similar, but much more sour, Berlinnerweiss is actually infected with lactobacillus bacteria like sourdough, and then re-boiled before fermentation to make it intensely sour. It’s typically served in the summer, accompanied by raspberry or woodruff syrups to cut the tartness. Dogfish Head’s Festina Pêche is a decent example of a Berlinnerweiss style that could be relatively easy to find.
Most of these beers can be purchased at better liquor stores. But you can sometimes find Gennessee Cream Ale — the grandaddy of commercial cream ales — in cans or green bottles at the odd neighborhood liquor mart.
Genny Cream Ale and Genny Light were probably the first two beers I tasted in sippy cups at my grandparents’ place in Catskill, New York. A little chemical encouragement to nod off while my cousin and I sat around electrical spool tables with the bug zapper going full blast, crickets chirping loudly, and my grandfather sitting there with his .22 aimed at the woodchuck hole near his garden after a full day of riding the Snapper around the back forty. Lawnmower beer indeed.