In this post you are going to learn the exact step by step process on how to make a cream ale and also get an easy to brew but deliciously, refreshing and smooth all grain cream ale recipe. As you are going to see, learning how to homebrew this beer is relatively simple which on top of being delicious is one of the reasons so many brewers have started making this beer again.
Table of Contents
The Cream Ale Was Almost Extinct
Cream Ale is an American style that was created out of necessity by American brewers to compete with the surging popularity of German Lagers back in the 19th century. In the mid 1800’s there was a large migration of Germans to North America; and with them came their ability to brew Lagers.
Prior to the arrival of Lagers on this shore, Ales were the primary beer consumed. However before too long Americans started to prefer the lighter, crisp and clear Lager. In order to compete with this new trend Ale brewers had to adapt and as a result created a beer that looked and tasted very much like a Lager but was actually an Ale. This beer eventually became known as a Cream Ale.
One of the advantages the Cream Ale had over the German Lagers was that it used a top fermenting ale yeast and as a result it could be brewed in a fraction of the time that it took to brew a Lager. This gave the Ale brewers a clear competitive advantage.
Although Cream Ales were very popular prior to prohibition they did not recover as well as Lagers did post prohibition; until recently that is. Now homebrewers and craft brewers alike are once again discovering and brewing this unique and delicious American style.
What is a Cream Ale?
To begin with it is important to understand that even though it is called a Cream Ale, it has no cream or lactose of any sort in it and never has.
For some reason some brewers have decided that because the word cream makes up part of its name that it should have milk products in it and have attempted with very poor results to brew versions of this beer with lactose in it. I do not recommend trying this; if you do understand you are not brewing a cream ale but a whole new style of your own.
When trying to understand this style simply think Lager but with Ale yeast and no need to lager it during brewing.
You can actually use lager yeast or ale yeast. If you use lager yeast you want to brew it at the higher end of the lager yeast temperature scale and if you use ale yeast you want to brew it at the lower end of the ale yeast temperature scale.
You could describe this style of beer as being discreet. It is not what you would describe as being a hoppy beer and it is also not malty. Depending on which base grain you use it might have a slight bready taste and a hint of a corn aroma. Think what a Lager tastes like and then think about what a light Ale tastes like, combine those and that is a Cream Ale.
How it Looks, Smells, Feels & Tastes
It’s appearance will fall between a straw color to a light golden. It should always be clear. The head will in most cases be white in color and have a medium to medium high retention. It’s carbonation level will also be very high.
It’s aroma will be very low on the malt side but you should be able to pick it up along with a sweet corn-like smell. There will usually not be any hop aroma detectable.
It’s taste is very similar to a Lager as it is designed to. It is not an overly sweet tasting beer although some can finish slightly on the sweet side, however most will have a dry finish. There will also be a light corn flavor.
The mouthfeel is smooth and light; not creamy despite its name. It has a crisp feel to it with small bubbles from the higher carbonation.
All Grain Cream Ale Recipe Ingredients
Grains: Six-row and maize were what was traditionally used. However nowadays you will find that many recipes use two-row or pilsner malt. They will make up approximately 90% of the grain bill of your recipe. The remaining 10% will either be flaked corn (maize) or corn sugar. If you use corn sugar it is added to the boil (not the mash) and also needs to be stirred well so it does not scorch the bottom of your boil kettle.
Hops: IBU’s should be around 20 and under. Originally this beer was hopped with Cluster hops for bittering and then they added various finishing hops. However the original cream ales had higher IBU’s closer to 40. Modern day Cream Ales typically have one low-alpha American hop addition at the start of the boil. I prefer Crystal for this style of beer however Styrian Golding, Cascade and Mt. Hood are also commonly used
Yeast: You want to use a higher attenuating yeast in order to get a nice dry finish. Outside of that the choice of yeasts is really yours. Some will use a lager yeast others an ale yeast. I stick to Ale yeasts and I love my dry yeasts. I have used both Safale US-05 and K-97 (kolsch) yeast and both turned out great.
All Grain Cream Ale Recipe
I call this recipe “Don’t Let it Fool Ya”. Even though this is a lighter tasting beer it will creep up on you quickly. Don’t be fooled by it’s light taste, it’ll get ya.
It’s a delicious beer that you are going to love to make every summer I can assure you. Enjoy my friend!
Target OG: 1.047
Target FG: 1.012
Pre Boil Volume: 6.50 gallons
Post Boil Volume: 5.50 gallons
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70%
- 7 lbs 2-Row
- 2 lbs Flaked Corn
- 1 oz Crystal (60 mins)
- 0.5 oz Crystal (10 mins)
Fermentis – Safale – German Ale Yeast K-97 (US-05 will work well also).
Mash for 60 minutes at 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Boil for 60 minutes. Add 1oz Crystal hops to the boil at the 60-min mark (start of boil). Add whirlfloc at 15 minutes left in boil. Add 0.5 oz Crystal hops at 10 minutes left in boil. Chill wort. Ferment at 60 – 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold crash and use other clearing strategies if desired. Keg or bottle. Condition at fridge temperatures if possible. Drink and enjoy!
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This cream ale recipe is clearly an all grain beer and as such you need all grain brewing equipment. I brew on what I consider to be the best type of brewing system due to its ease of use, low cost, quick clean up and how great of beer it makes. I am referring to what is called all-in-one brewing systems.
You can learn about the all-in-one systems here.
And now my friend, you know exactly how to make a cream ale. If you have any questions on how to brew this recipe feel free to ask in the comments and I will be sure to help you out.
Now go get your brew awnnn…
Big Robb is Out!