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So Yeah, Dood: Lawnmower Beer

lawnmowered. 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.

11 comments to So Yeah, Dood: Lawnmower Beer

  • Tomás (nee KonaBoy)

    Nice write-up!

    It’s good to see someone defend “fruity beers” (sic), I don’t usually like light lagers and wheats, but this is definitely the season to have them. I was big on Blue Moon right before it got Ricky Martin popular, and always added an orange slice to it instead of lemon, though I have done lemon with others.

    Have any of you guys had any Leinenkugel? They’re a Milwaukee family outfit that I’m able to buy out here in Byrdsylvania, and was initially attracted to them because of their Red Lager; which I now even favor over Killian’s. But yeah, they also have a summer wheat which I should probably check out now.

  • Daily Breather

    Nice post. I agree with the lighter beers for summer. I still see kids in Charles Village slamming Guiness pints though. They’ll learn. I find that the Natty Boh and Schafffer Light are great light summer brews for me and have also been getting into the Saisson and Belgan farmhouse ales. Oh, thank you for the explaination on the Berlinnerweiss. I ordered one of these at the Rathskeller once, not knowing what it was. I was sadly disappointed. Damn, that’s a sour beer. I’ll know better next time.
    And the Genesee Cream Ale is a fav as well. Grandpa with the .22. That was my grandpa growing up. And we lived in Genesee County, MI. Settled by pioneers from upstate NY. Went to Genesee schools. So the cream ale is a bit of an homage.
    And if you can make it through the hipsterclot you can get $2 cans of the Genny Cream Ale at Rocket to Venus in Hampden.

  • Ryan

    I’ve had Leinenkugels summer wheat. Good beer for the season, definitely.

    I’ll meet any of you at Rocket for a Genny or four this Thursday if you’re into it. Additionally, I will be at the O’s/Nats game this Saturday if you want to hang out. email me. altarego@gmail.com

  • Andrew out of Rochester

    It’s back! I haven’t read this yet, but I’m just so excited about so yeah, dood being back!

  • Andrew out of Rochester

    I honestly couldn’t stand Leinenkugel’s summer wheat the one time I tried it. I’ve always been a big believer in Blue Moon (popularity be damned), and Genny is the home brew of many a Rochesterian (not that I am a Rochesterian, but it does rest right on the Gennessee River). I’ve never had any beer with lemon, but orange is wonderful in the summer (also reminds me of Ali’s advice to Hunter S. Thompson: always drink gin with grapefruit).

    Actually, my favorite summertime beer comes from a small brewery in Honeoye Falls, NY (just near the birthplace of Wegmans) called CB’s 19th Hole. As Joe Angel would say “My Goodness”. It’s perfect for hanging out on the deck, drinking from the growler.

    Side note: Jeff in New Freedom, I graduated from Susquehannock high school a few years back…might I know you, sir? Also, I’m down for TLC night Saturday in the DC. Everyone should come.

    Do more doods.

  • dan the man

    Love the Doods.

    Never had Genny, I must try this.

  • Ryan

    Thanks guys. I’ll try to come up with some more of these.

    Blue Moon, in case you didn’t know, is brewed by Coors, and the flagship version is essentially a Hoegaarden clone. The good wits out there all use bitter/curacao orange peel and coriander in the boil, and are really lightly hopped, and unfiltered so you get all of the yeasty goodness at the bottom of the glass. Technically, you don’t really need fruit with this beer because it already has the fruit flavor in it, from the spices and orange peel. A lot of Belgian beers use wheat as a base malt, which is why they’re usually cloudier and have a tartness to them, outside of that imparted by the wild yeasts of course. Oddly, Hoegaarden is distributed by — or at least affiliated with — Anheuser Busch.

    Kriekbiers, have sour cherry flavors. They add the whole fruit, pit and all, to the kettle after the heat has been shut off at knockout, and it all goes right in the fermenter. The pits and stems can give it a woody flavor. Takes a long time to age properly, but it’s really good stuff. Brewer’s Art makes one during the Spring. I remember being less excited about how it turned out this year, but perhaps next year’s will be better.

    I haven’t brewed much lately, but I would be way into having a TLC brew day if you guys were interested. BBQ, brews, O’s game on a radio. I think that sounds fun, but that’s just me.

  • Andrew out of Rochester

    There’s a public house in Rochester staffed entirely by Brits (if anyone is ever in town, go to Frontier Field and the Old Toad and you will have yourself a heck of a night)…here they serve so-called Real Ale, which is more expensive (almost 7 bucks a glass!) but served warmish with a huge frothy head of yeast in it – delicious. They cask age the ale and don’t refrigerate it and something about no carbonation (totally yeast created or something)…but the taste is wonderfully rich. Anyway, if you guys are ever in The Great White North, that is easily the only bar around worth a dime.

  • Ryan

    Real ales are awesome. Proper Real Ales require a beer engine to hand pump it out of the cask.

    Bertha’s in Fell’s Point has Bertha’s Bitter, and it’s a real ale. Awesome stuff.

  • Andrew out of Rochester

    I know that th Toad has a few house real ales, but they also rotate in a guest ale or two every 2 weeks, and I swear I saw Clipper City Ale in there, but I can’t get anyone to back that up…that’s a Bawlmer brew, isn’t it?

  • Ryan

    Yep. Hugh Sisson’s stuff brewed just south of the beltway. He also does the Heavy Seas stuff, which is pretty good.

    Clipper City hosts the annual Free State Homebrew Guild Christmas party every year. You eat dinner and get drunk right in the production area. Pretty cool.