One of my favorite summer memories is my childhood task of bringing my dad a beer after he finished mowing our big backyard—a half-acre kickball/soccer/wiffleball field that certainly earned him a cold one. So as summer rolls into Bloomington, I find myself turning to “lawnmower beers”—brews that are light enough to quench my thirst but flavorful enough to seem like a reward after gardening or mowing. 

In my book, lawnmower beers have to meet a few basic criteria. First, they need to have a relatively low alcohol content so you can enjoy a few without mowing down the flower beds. Second, they should be lightly hopped since this kind of beer is most refreshing when flavors are subtle. Third, they need to be relatively dry and crisp so they quench your thirst without feeling overly heavy or sweet. 

Bloomington Brewing Company’s Kirkwood Cream Ale. Photo by Rodney Margison

Lots of beer styles can meet these criteria, but here are a few of my favorites you can find in Bloomington.

Blonde ales are easy-drinking beers that are simple, well-rounded, and smooth. They are usually lightly hopped, a bit malty, clear and pale gold, with a nice, white head. One of my favorites is Quaff On! Brewing Company’s Six Foot Blonde, a balanced beer with a clean malt-forward profile. Or you can try Kona Brewing Company’s Big Wave Golden Ale for something with a tropical hint to its hops.

Cream ales are also light in color and body, with a simpler malt character and a touch of sweetness and smoothness. Many view cream ales as the craft alternative to standard American beers—simple, clean, and refreshing. Try Bloomington Brewing Company’s Kirkwood Cream Ale for its slightly sweet malt flavor with hints of biscuit from the grain and spiciness from the hops. 

I can also recommend Sun King Brewery’s Sunlight Cream Ale, which adds hints of earthiness and citrus from American hops.

Finally, my favorite lawnmower beer is a Kölsch-style ale, a beer native to Cologne, Germany. Kölsch-style ales are also light in color and body but tend to be a bit breadier in aroma and flavor, and their yeast gives them a slightly vinous or wine-like character, sometimes with subtle fruit flavors. They are more heavily carbonated and have a drier finish than the beers mentioned above. My regional favorite is Schlafly’s Kölsch Ale from Saint Louis Brewery—a wonderful balance of crispness, maltiness, and gentle hints of fruit. For a Hoosier version, try Vacation Kölsch from Daredevil Brewing Company in Speedway, Indiana.

When you’re working hard in the sun this summer, I still encourage you to hydrate with water. But when you’re done and you’ve put up the lawnmower, my advice is to take some time to relax in the shade with a well-earned cold one.