Welcome to the summer edition of this blog. And with the sun up, that means we got to stay hydrated. So today we are going to talk about lawn mower beers. And I know that some of you will read that and be like, “Gross, that stuff? What are we, back in college?” And there are some that have no idea what that is. Lawn mower beers are the cheap beers, and though they don’t have a lot of flavor, they hydrate better than say, an IPA or stout. So, let’s talk about cheap beers…what makes them more hydrating, the dismay some may have to them, and some of my go-to favorites.
The first thing is what makes them what they are. The main version of them are the American Lagers. We all know these…Bud Light, The Highlife, and Miller Lite. There are also those in Canada like Labatt and Molson. The reason these were made was for lack of ingredients. Germans that immigrated to the area brought pale lagers with them, but couldn’t make it the same since they lacked the correct two-row barley from Europe and the Tettnanger and Saaz Hops. And as we know from the Hop Blog those are Noble Hops that can’t be grown in North America. Another change was adding corn to the mash to help balance the flavors from the different barley and hops. They were able to get close to it, but to get the beers that we know now, it would be when we get to World War II.
During WWII, they were forced to ration grain, and were forced to use rice. As for hops, many used American grown hops including Cascade and Cluster. So, we are no longer making a clone of European Lager…we have added corn and used different barley, different hops, and then added rice later on. By their powers combined, we have the current forms of the American Lager. Though there were tough times with Prohibition, most breweries managed to survive (Canada lost quite a few, but the big ones made it), the recipes continued for the most part. Due to the lack of strong flavors like an IPA or Porter would have, this beer becomes light (or lite) with less grain and hops that give a slight bitterness when added at the beginning of the boil. This makes it a quantity beer that you can drink a lot of, and not a quality beer that has a great flavor profile.
Let’s talk about our past college lives. We have all been there, and some of us are there now. Poor college kid that needs a drink, what can we do? We found ourselves looking at a “dirty thirty” (kids, if you are reading this, stop, but if you didn’t listen to me just there… ask your parents). We do mostly grow out of only buying the thirty packs, but there are some that stay with the lagers, and there is nothing wrong with that. My late uncle Norm lived by only drinking Labatt Light. He had no qualm with other beers, I even bought him an IPA called Norm’s Raggedy Ass and he enjoyed them, he just grew up with Labatt Lights and he stuck with what he knew. My big brother from my fraternity also loves him some Busch Light and even comes down from Canada to get thirty packs in the US that they do not sell in Canada. Myself, I do prefer flavor in my beer, but there are plenty of times I will reach into my beer fridge and pull out a Budweiser. And to all of those that only say “gross” you know, deep down, that there is a special place in your heart for a cheap beer that you don’t want to admit. It’s ok, there is no shame here, drink what you like no matter what it is, just accept it and own it. In one sitting I will pour me a glass of the coffee ale I made and then get me a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Now let’s talk about what is out there. We all know about the major ones like Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller Lite, Labatt, and Labatt Light. Regionally, there are many others from slightly smaller breweries from Atwater to Yuengling. There are classics as well that could be hard to find like Strohs or Red Dog. It is fun to look out there and see what is made (as it is with all beer style) and even some microbreweries are considering making their version of the American Lager. But if I had to make a choice on an American Lager, I would choose between Pabst Blue Ribbon or Budweiser. I don’t mind others, but there are those out there that do not like either. What are your lawn mower beers or choice? Leave a comment here or reach out on Twitter @rambokuhn or look for Wise Old Owls Brewery on Facebook. Cheers!