Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Beercraft newspaper column #40- Lawnmower beers

40 columns... I really should be syndicating these things.

“Lawnmower Beers” make yard work bearable.

By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish
Nothing beats a cold beer on a hot, muggy day, although some beers are more refreshing than others. You wouldn’t necessarily want to chase away the summer perspiration with a big, syrupy doppelbock or black Irish stout.

No, you want a lawnmower beer: a brew that both quenches your thirst and perks up your taste buds, without a thick, cloying body; a beverage to reach for after the arduous task of mowing the lawn on a scorching afternoon.

Of course, if you’re like Bruce, you have a riding mower, and if you’re like Mark, you don’t have a lawn at all, but the principle’s the same. Please allow the two of us, for whom yard work is easy, to suggest some restorative summer beverages.

Brooklyn Lager, from the Brooklyn Brewing Company, is a great place to start. Its rich copper color immediately sets it apart from the typical American lager. You can’t help but notice the flowery hop notes and aromatic, almost citrus, spiciness as the scent wafts from the glass; a promise of the flavor to come.

The first cold mouthful is a procession of sweet-tinged malt flavor, perhaps a little toasty, immediately complemented by a full, deliciously bitter flood of hop character. As you swallow, the hop tinge lingers, coaxing you into another sip. All the while, the medium body of Brooklyn Lager lends the beer a substantial quality not often present in the most mainstream American Lagers.

A quick style swap and we find ourselves holding a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. This is one of those “gateway beers” that starts people’s appreciation of craft brewing, but its high quality and classic flavor make it a beer you never grow out of.

It’s also damn refreshing. Unlike the Brooklyn lager, Sierra Nevada’s Pale leads with its hop flavors, which then mellow into satisfying, slightly biscuit-like, full-bodied malt sweetness. The flavor is never too malt-heavy, so it avoids unnecessary sweetness or heaviness of body. Likewise, it isn’t hopped to the point where it becomes an IPA, by American standards, anyway; like most West Coast ales, you’ll still find Sierra Nevada Pale Ale hoppier than many English IPAs.

Our third choice is Prima Pils, from the Victory Brewing Company of Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Now Pilsner (the real stuff, not the buzzword you see on television beer ads) is a style not many American breweries get right, but Victory pretty much nails it.

In terms of body, Victory Prima Pils is lighter than the other two lawnmower beers we’ve discussed, but a Pilsner is supposed to be. A bottle of this stuff is rewarding to open; you’re immediately hit by a tantalizing grassy-fresh aroma, backed by the unmistakable smell of Saaz hops- the signature of the Pilsner style.

Do yourself a favor- please pour this beer into a glass, preferable a slender, conical Pilsner glass. Otherwise you’ll be missing out on the visual delights; a freshly poured glass of Pilsner is like porn for beer lovers. The light golden hue, topped with a fluffy, soapy head rising above the top rim of the glass makes the mouth water and the pulse quicken. Soon, that thick foam will be coating your upper lip, and, quite possibly, the tip of your nose.

The flavor is all malt at first; a bready, ever-so-slightly sweet river of mine malt flavor, immediately offset and countered by the powerful Saaz hops. One of the best things about Pilsner is the paradox; a beer with this much malt character and such a light body. It’s the Czech hops that act as the catalyst for this to happen. The unique combination of body, flavor, aroma and beauty make Pilsner the most refreshing beer style on the planet, and Victory Prima Pils is one of the best examples produced in the USA. Are there better Pilsners? Yes, but they all come from Central Europe.

As you can see, Lawnmower beers don’t have to be feather-light, nor do the need to be watery. The toil you put into your yard work should come with a commensurate reward, so reach for a cold, sweaty bottle of one of these three beers and relax after a job well done.

Now, pardon us while we go heave Bruce’s lawn tractor out of that drainage ditch.

Bruce is a certified beer judge and commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at http://beercraft.blogspot.com. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to beercraft@rochester.rr.com.


'Don' Cialini said...

Are you serious? When a guy finishes mowing his lawn, he wants a cold beer right out of the bottle (sorry can drinkers but you guys suck). We're not going to look for a tall cylindrical glass to pour our cold one into. Man up puss.

Sparkle Anne said...

I hate to admit this, but I'm gonna go with the Don on this. The beers you mentioned are good but I feel like I have run a marathon after mowing the lawn and don't want anything "roasty" toughing my palatte; I want a cold Miller Lite or Shiner Bock. Maybe a Dos XX
Sparkle on.

'Don' Cialini said...

Sparkle just earned some good will points. Well done!

I'd throw back a Dos XX as well.

Calico said...

This would be true if I had a bigger lawn... as it is I barely work up a sweat:

While I am mowing the lawn, I drink water with lemon juice, and that makes me not as thirsty when I get done. So when I get done, I can enjoy a beer that actually tastes like something, like a Pilsner or a hefeweizen.