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Friday, July 29, 2011

Lawnmower Beers

This month:
- The blog undergoes an Extreme Makeover. There's nothing like slapping a little lipstick on a pig!

- We check out some Lawnmower Beers - purely as a public service, of course.

                                                          SHERMAN ON THE MOUNT
By Rick Sherman

I decided the blog could use a little sprucing up, so I came up with this. Makes me thirsty just looking at it. But, besides the appearance I've also added a neat little search gadget right up there at the top of the page. It's pretty cool. Want to know if we have reviewed a particular beer? Type the name into the search bar and voila! Just like that you'll be taken to the review. Go ahead, give it a shot. I'll wait right here while you do.

Got an email from friend-of-the-BOTB Dan P. He sent me a link to a place in Watertown, NY called Bear World. Here's a link. Looks like a great place to pick up some good craft beer. I'm thinking we'll have to take a hike up North and check it out.

Well, what did I tell you? I mean, I was going to go on a rant about our local fireman's field days having only light beer, but then I thought maybe I already did that. I typed in "fireman's field days" and sure enough there was last summer's article. So I won't go into that again. (But honestly, two beers to choose from and they are both light? I don't get it.)

So this month we decided to review what we lovingly call "lawnmower beers." It took awhile to figure out just what constituted a lawnmower beer. Is it a beer low in alcohol? Or is it a beer that comes in a can for convenience? Or is it just a beer whose name somehow denotes summer and fresh cut grass? Well, we never really settled the matter so we ended up with a potpourri of beers that covered the spectrum and then some. 
If you recall, last month I took some shots at summer beers - that they tend to get away from what makes beer, well, beer. Namely hops and malt. I heard from a number of you out there who were in agreement, but was taken to task by our BOTB friend Shannon (and not for the first time, I might add). Here's what she had to say:

"Good blog, Rick. However, I doth protest a bit on your lament to the summer ale. It is of my highly sought opinion that adding a bit of the citrus to a nice light summer ale is both delicious and refreshing. While lemonade and Seven Up are both nice light beverages, they don't have that same wheat/citrus flavor one seeks out on a nice, hot summer day. Furthermore, I dare say, the hoppy flavor that you and the other B.O.T.B. guys enjoy lies rather heavy on a more delicate palate in the higher temperatures."

And then, for good measure, she saw my song parody and raised me with her own take on a classic summer song - The Jamies' "Summertime." (You know, the one that goes "Summertime, summertime, sum sum summertime...). Herewith I present Shannon's melodic rebuke:
Lemon, lime and orange too:
I like Corona and Landshark brew;
Summer ale is a tasty wheat;
It's a once a year summertime treat.
Summer brew - oohooh ooh.

Well Shannon, we've got some beers for you this month. And while I still prefer fall and winter brews, I decided to try these summer ales with an open mind and open mouth. But be warned, I have a second salvo of lyrical licentiousness brewing. The chorus is something like this:

There ain't no cure for the summertime BREWS.
That's all I got at the moment.

The truth is, we here at BOTB like the fact that the craft brewers out there are such experimenters. It's such fun to discover a new brewery or a new take on a familiar style. The key here is CHOICE. It wasn't so long ago that the only choice you really had in beer was the name on the bottle. It was pretty much a case of "same beer, different label." Then came light beers so you had a choice of a light lager or a Lite lager. Still, most restaurants' taps are dominated by the big boys, but little by little craft beers are sneaking in. 

And Now For the Beers

We welcomed Leinenkugel Brewery out of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin into the fold this month. Leinenkugel is the seventh oldest brewery in the U.S. Started in 1867 by Jacob Leinenkugel, it is the oldest business in Chippewa Falls and one of the oldest in the state. 

Their year round beers are: Sunset Wheat, Honey Weiss, Berry Weiss, Red Lager, Creamy Dark, Leinenkugel Original (Pilsner), and Classic Amber. 
Their seasonals are: Summer Shandy, Oktoberfest, Fireside Nut Brown and 1888 Bock.

This month, fitting in nicely with our lawnmower beer theme, we checked out their Honey Weiss and Summer Shandy. The Shandy is their most popular beer. 

To judge these beers, Gerry created a form with a continuum for malty and hoppy, followed by color, clarity and head. For taste we had a menu of choices: malty, hoppy, sweet, nutty, roasted, citrus, wheat, bitter, tart or sour. Aftertaste was judged as: strong, firm, memorable, weak or invisible. Finally, since the theme is lawnmower beers we had an appropriateness meter - determining just how advisable it would be to drink while mowing the lawn. The beer was either considered a "smooth mowing" beer or a "cut off your foot" brew. 
There was really on head to head comparisons here as in some cases it would have been like Microds vs. Monster Trucks. Not really a fair fight. It was a meeting that titillated the taste buds and angered the liver.

Leinenkugel Honey Weiss -                   
The Basics: ABV - 4.8%
                   IBU - 13.5
Malts - Blend of Wheat and Pale
Hops - Cluster
Other - Real Wisconsin Honey
The Results:
                     - Not very malty
                     - Not very hoppy
                     - A pretty light yellow color
                     - Very clear
                     - Carbonated head
                     - Sweet, wheat taste
                     - Somewhere between weak and invisible aftertaste
                     - A smooth mowing beer
Comments: "Way thin. I'd not buy it, but it is inoffensive. / It looks like an old time beer ad. / Pleasant and inoffensive. / I like it better than some other wheat beers I've had. / Commercial beer."

Leinenkugel Summer Shandy -

The Basics: ABV - 4.2%
                      IBU - 13.5
Malt - Wheat and Pale
Hops - Cluster
Other - Lemonade

    The Results: 
                       - No appreciable taste of malt or hops
                       - Light and yellow
                       - Not at all clear; quite cloudy
                       - Citrus (lemon) taste with the sweet/tart taste that goes with good lemonade
                       - Slight but memorable aftertaste
                       - An ideal "smooth mowing" beer. 

Comments: "Very much like lemonade. Not as bad as I had anticipated. / Beer for those who really don't like beer. / Lemon flavor very prominent. / Liked it way better than I thought I would. Beats the hell out of the Raspberry Wheat. / Thought it would be really sweet, but the tartness redeems it in my opinion."

Harpoon 100 Barrel Series #37 - Rich and Dan's Rye IPA

The Basics: ABV - 6.9%
                       IBU - 54
Malt - Pale, Maris Otter, Rye, Caramel 60, Flaked Rye, Vienna
Hops - Centennial, Willamette, Chinook, Falconer's Flight
 A Brief Aside - You may wonder what is a beer like this doing in with our "lawnmower" beers. Well, in truth this is a difficult beer to get hold of unless you are near the Harpoon breweries in Boston and Windsor, VT. However  Ed Valenta, the Harpoon rep for this area who has been very good to us here at BOTB, was kind enough to wrangle us up a bottle. We were happy to oblige. The beer takes its name from Harpoon's co-founders, Rich Doyle and Dan Kenary. It's available in draft and 22 ounce bottles, but with limited quantities we were glad to get some.

The Results: - Moderately to very hoppy; malt backbone
                   - Darker than a typical IPA with a red tinge to it.
                   - Moderate clarity and head
                   - Complex taste ranging from hoppy to malty to bitter to tart.
                   - A strong and memorable aftertaste
                   - Definitely NOT a lawnmower beer - closer to a "cut off your foot" beer. Though at 6.9% it's not over-the-top strong. 

Comments: "Tastes like a beer should taste. / I could drink this 'til I pass out. / Nice warming quality - great beer. / I COULD DRINK THIS!"

Harpoon Leviathan Imperial IPA -

The Basics: ABV - 10%
                      IBU's - 120
Malt - Pale and Caramel
Hops - Chinook, Centennial, Simcoe, Amarillo
Other - Harpoon's proprietary yeast
Aside #2 - Okay, what can I say. Ed from Harpoon was good to us. This is a beer to be sipped and savored. It is not one to be downed while operating any heavy machinery other than perhaps the TV remote. But, man, what a great beer to sip and savor! It comes in 4-packs year-round.

The Results: 
                  -A very hoppy beer laid over a strong malt backbone. The caramel malt gives it a slight sweetness to offset the prodigious amount of hops.
                  - Deep amber color
                  - Moderate clarity
                  - Full head
                  - Very complex taste - malty, hoppy, nutty and bitter. 
                  - Unanimous agreement - strong, lasting aftertaste; Not for the faint of heart (or those with delicate palates.)
                  - Definite "cut off your foot" beer. Don't use a mower, chain saw, hedge trimmer, or butter knife for that matter. 

Comments: "Oh, baby! / That's what I'm talkin' 'bout! / Wow! Great beer!"

Stoudt's Double IPA - 

The Basics: ABV - 10%
                      IBU - 90
Malts - 2 Row, Munich
Hops (aroma) Cascade and Willamette
Hops (fermenting) Warrior
Top fermenting yeast.
Aside #3 - Okay, how about this: our mission was to see what beers were good lawn mower beers and what beers weren't. In order to do this we needed examples of both. Stoudt's Brewery is located in Adamstown, PA. They make three "big" beers. Besides this one, they have Fat Dog Stout and Triple Belgian Style Abbey Ale. In terms of ABV and IBU, this is the biggest of the three (Fat Dog: 9% ABV and 55 IBU; Triple: 9% ABV and 37 IBU.)

The Results:
                  - Moderate to very hoppy with a malt backbone.
                  - Orange-ish color
                  - Moderate to full head
                  - Big taste ranging from hoppy to malty to sweet. Some mentioned nutty, citrus and roasted flavors.
                 - Unanimous - strong aftertaste.
                 - Unanimous - "cut off your foot" appropriateness as a lawnmower beer - same rules apply as the Leviathan.

Comments: "Beautiful beer - monster hops! / YOWZER! / Full flavored, robust. Very good beer - again not for the faint of heart."

Grindstone Brewery's Latest:

The Basics: Northern Saaz and Cascade Hops
The Results:
                   - Decently malted with a good dose of hops
                   - Rich color
                   - Unfiltered and cloudy
                   - Nice head
                   - Malty, hoppy and roasted taste
                   - Firm aftertaste
                   - Just as a general rule, one should not use power equipment after drinking Grindstone beers.

Wacko by Magic Hat:

The Basics: ABV - 4.5%
                      IBU - 15
Malt - Pale, Sugar
Hops - Apollo
Yeast - English Ale
Interesting other - colored with beet juice
    The Results:
                       - A bit more malty than hoppy, but not overpowering of either
                       - Red
                       - Moderate clarity
                       - Decent head
                       - A sort of malty/sweet and sour taste
                       - Pretty weak finish
                       - Smooth mowing beer

Comments: "Very typical of Magic Hat beers. / Very carbonated."

Long Trail Pale Ale - 

The Basics: ABV - 5.7%
                      IBU - 35
Malt - 2 Row, Caramel
Hops - Centennial, Cascade

Long Trail Brewery is one of many terrific breweries in Vermont. Located in Bridgewaters Corners, VA, Long Trail brews an impressive array of beers. Yet it is their Pale Ale is the beer they are best know for. Besides the Pale Ale, their year-round brews are: Long Trail Ale, IPA, Blackberry Wheat, Double Bag Strong Ale. Their Seasonals are: Pollenator Pale Ale, Belgian White, Harvest Brown Ale, Hibernator Scottish Ale. They also have an intriguing Limited Edition which are tough to find in our neck of the woods. They are: Coffee Stout, Double IPA, Imperial Porter, and Imperial Red Ale. 

The Results:
                   - Hoppy, floral aroma
                   - Nice maltiness with tart hoppy taste
                   - Very respectable head
                   - Firm finish
                   - Kind of a mixed bag as to the advisability of mowing your lawn after some Long Trail.

Comments: "Oh, so good. / Always a favorite. / Long Trail makes a good beer. / Crisp, balanced, very clean. Good beer."

Oskar Blues Brewery Dale's Pale Ale - 

The Basics: ABV - 6.5%
                      IBU - 65
Top U.S. Pale Ale - New York Times
Gold Medal 2010 World Beer Championship
World's Best Canned Beer - Details Magazine
   Oskar Blues is a unique brewery in Lyons, Colorado. What makes them unique is the fact that all of their beers are canned. They do not bottle at all. They are the first craft brewery to put their beers in cans. The controversy of years past over bottles vs. cans is gradually becoming somewhat moot due to the fact that the interior of modern cans are lined so that metal and beer never never touch. Oskar Blues produces five beers, all in cans, some more available than others. They are: Dale's Pale Ale, Old Chub Scottish Ale, G'Knight Imperial Ale, Mama's Little Yellow Pils (a Pilsner in case you didn't catch the misspelling), Ten Fidy Imperial Stout, and Gubna Imperial IPA. Dale's Pale Ale and Old Chub are readily available in our area - Wegman's regularly carries them - but the others are tough to find. We'd love to get our hands on them based on the other two. Dale's and Old Chub are both full bodied, full flavored brews.
And I gotta' tell you - I have got to get to one of their brewpubs (Oskar Blues Grill and Bar, The Tasty Weasel Taproom, Home Made Liquids & Solids) one of these days because their rotating slate of beers on tap is impressive and intriguing. Just check out these names: The Mutilator, One Hit Wonder Imperial IPA, Velvet Elvis Stout, One Nut Brown Ale, Smoke On The Water Holiday brew. A serious road trip is in order.

The Results:
                  - A somewhat malty aroma, with a more pronounced hops scent
                  - Slightly darker than your average pale ale
                  - Better than average head
                  - Hoppy, malty/sweet taste
                  - Firm to memorable finish
                  - Mixed bag again as to advisability of mowing. 6.5% is up there. But the can really works.

Comments: "Pretty heavy duty for a lawnmower beer, but the can makes it handy. / Very hoppy for a pale ale. Good beer. Best canned beer I've ever had, bar none."

Mayflower Brewing Company Golden Ale:

The Basics: ABV - 4.7%
                      IBU - 18
Malts - Pilsner, Caramel Pilsner
Hops - Calena, Liberty
Mayflower House Yeast
We've enjoyed a few Mayflower Brewery brews here at BOTB's (go ahead, check it out in our cool new search engine!). Mayflower is a bit of a newcomer (2007) to the scene but they are slowly growing. Right now they have four year-round beers:  Pale Ale, Golden Ale, IPA, and Porter. They also produce five seasonal offerings: Spring Hop Ale, Winter Oatmeal Stout, Summer Rye Ale, Autumn Wheat Ale, and Thanksgiving Ale. We checked out their Golden Ale which is the mildest of their regulars.

The Results:
                  - Aroma fairly balanced between hoppy and malty.
                  - Light golden color
                  - Fairly clear
                  - Big head
                  - Fruity and sweet taste with a little hoppy presence.
                  - an overall memorable finish
                  - A smooth mowing beer.

Comments: "Good summer beer. / A nice lawnmower beer. / Overall, a tasty beer - very balanced. / Some nutty notes and good hops presence."

Ellicottville Mow Master Ultra Pale Ale:

The Basics: ABV - 5.0%
                       IBU - 36
Malts - Belgian Cara
Hops - Citra plus other American Hops
Ellicottville Brewing Company in Ellicottville, NY has been around since 1995. They brew nearly thirty beers including seven regulars: EBC Pale Ale, Blueberry Wheat, Nut Brown, EVL Nut Brown, Toasted Lager, Black Jack Oatmeal Stout, and Pantius Droppus Imperial Pale Ale. We, however, opted for one of their six seasonals.

The Results: 
                   - A more hoppy than malty aroma
                   - Unfiltered
                   - Decent to big head
                   - Hoppy, citrus-y, roasted and tart tastes emerge.
                   - Firm, memorable finish
                   - Smooth mowing beer

Comments: "Similar to Saranac's Pale Ale, / Perfect mower beer - duh!"

Pork Slap Farmer's Ale

                         The Basics: ABV 4.3%
                         Malt - 2 Row North American Barley
                         Hops - Crystal
                         Other Stuff - Fresh ginger
One of the things I love to do is check out craft breweries' web sites. They are often fun, sometimes wacky, a little crazy but nearly always clever. But for pure serendipitous goofiness you'd be hard pressed to match Butternuts Beer and Ale's web site at . Take a minute and check it out. I'll wait. Located in rural Garrattsville, NY, Butternut Brewery produces only four beer: Porkslap Pale Ale, Snapperhead IPA, Moo Thunder Stout, and Heinieweisse Weissebier. Like Oskar Blues, they only can their beer, no bottles. That alone made Porkslap an interesting lawnmower beer. The low ABV was simply icing on the cake so to speak. Or lipstick on a pig.

The Results:                     
                   - Way more malty than hoppy
                   - Quite dark for a pale ale
                   - Large root beer like head
                   - malty, sweet, nutty and roasted tastes dominate. 
                   - firm and memorable finish
                   - Allows for smooth mowing

Comments: "Actually, I could drink this! / European hops. Nice, pleasant beer. / Perfect for the lawnmower. /I found this beer a little on the malty side. / Not a favorite of mine because it's light on the hops, but a real nice change of pace beer."

Somehow, with the last beer, this is just a fitting sign off.

The BOTB Guys


  1. Fun review - you always make me want to go try some beer. Maybe next time we're in NY I'll have to do that.
    The search feature is a good idea. I enjoyed Shannon's song and rebuttle and, of course, Porky Pig.

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