Listen, there’s no way a Southerner coined the term lawn mower beer.
The last time I mowed the lawn was a July when the grass crawled midway up my calves and the temperature pushed 95 degrees. Mowing is usually my husband’s job, but I thought I’d surprise him after a couple weeks away. Two hours later, sweaty and sunburned and somehow sore everywhere, a beer sounded unbearable.
But sitting on the back porch after a cold shower with an equally cold beer in hand, surveying my hard work? That’s a beer I could get behind. The lawn mower beer is the quintessential summer beverage: low in alcohol, refreshing in taste, and light enough to have a few. It is the beer you want on a hot summer day when the drinking starts early, but the friends stay late. Pack this beer in the cooler, grill out with one in your hand, take it to the lake, and, yes, crack one open after mowing the lawn. The key word here is after, as it is too dang hot down South to enjoy anything while mowing except the fantasy of cold ice water.
The noble summer beer traces its origins to the traditional Belgian saison, a rustic, lower-alcohol ale that was brewed seasonally for thirsty farmhands to drink during their summer work in the fields. Later iterations include the classic American light lagers our grandfathers drank and, today, the low-ABV craft offerings that independent breweries release for summer. While styles range, summer beers are unified by their refreshing drinkability: you can down a few without getting gut-punched by the calories or the buzz. In fact, lower-alcohol beers are so deliciously crushable that beer trends show people are drinking them all year long—no lawn mowers needed.
Birds Fly South Fat Ma Pilsner
5.8% ABV $10/4-pk, The Community Tap, 217 Wade Hampton Blvd. Crisp, clean, and effervescent, with hints of stone fruit and hops.
Revelry Kookasaurus Kölsch
5% ABV $13/6-pk, Greenville Beer Exchange, 7 S Laurens St. A clean, balanced summer pounder with subtle fruit flavors.
Edmund’s Oast Something Cold
5% ABV $10/4-pk, The Community Tap, 217 Wade Hampton Blvd. Easy-drinking golden ale with a crisp, dry finish built to go down quick.
Birds Fly South Days Like This Kölsch
4.2% ABV $15/4-pk, Birds Fly South, 13 Hampton Ave Ext. Light ale with minimal hops and a refreshing finish.
Munkle Munk Pils
5% ABV $13/6-pk, Greenville Beer Exchange, 7 S Laurens St. Crisp pilsner with floral hops, cold-conditioned for six weeks.
Photography by Jivan Davé