Brew Dudes

Homebrewing blog and resource

Cream Ale Style Profile

How do you write a style profile about a beer that traditionally did not have a strict rule set of how it should be made?  I don’t know, but I am going to try to pull something together.

Cream ale is a style that is indigenous to America.  They were made by ale breweries to compete with the golden lagers that were starting to become pretty popular towards the end of the 19th century.  Because of Prohibition, the full knowledge of ingredients and techniques that were used was lost.  What we do know is that they are ale to be made more like German lagers than British ales.  This concept probably led to the ale breweries using lager yeasts and trying their best to storing their brews at cold temperatures for long periods of time.

BYO magazine put it best when they put together these guidelines:

  • It’s an American beer style, so all ingredients should be American.
  • The brew should be fermented at regular ale (warm) temperatures but cool to cold conditioned for a good length of time (2 to 4 months) to mimic a lagering stage.
  • The brew’s uniqueness should be derived from it having both ale and lager qualities.
  • It should be effervescent and dry.

I like the idea of making a true American brew.   I also feel like homebrewing brings us back to a time where people mostly made things for themseleves.  Beer styles seem to be based on what people had around them.  If you look at my cream ale recipe, I use flaked maize.  You can’t get a more American grain than that, right?   Heck, if I were living in those times maybe I would be using some corn in my brew.

I took up the challenge of brewing a cream ale because I wanted to try to brew something light for summer.   Homebrewers tend to brew darker beers, and I have no problem with that.  I wanted to see if I could brew a lighter beer where mistakes would be easier to detect.  Certainly wasn’t perfect, but was very drinkable and I will keep working at it until it’s close to flawless.

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3 Comments

  1. LB

    Why is it that homebrewers tend toward darker beers? What is it that makes a beer “dry”? With wine, it seems to me to be the absense of sweetness and also that it takes some of the moisture away from your tongue on the way down. Same with beer?

    Also, roughly what would the total cost be for a beginning brewmaster to buy a starter kit and all the original ingredients to make a first batch? Once you have the basic gear, how much more $ is it to make a new 5 or 6 gallon batch? Roughly speaking of course.

  2. I think homebrewers tend to make dark beers in response to the straw-colored, watered down macrobrew. Darker beers generally have bolder flavors and their appearance set them apart from your typical American commercial brew. I think homebrewers should feel free to brew whatever style they like, and not brew just to make something different from Bud/Miller/Coors.

    Beer with a “dry” taste fits the description you have above for wine. To me, it is beer that has little to no sweetness present in its taste. Many beers can be brewed to have complex sugars that cannot be consumed by yeast which leaves a sweet taste in the finished product. Cream ale should not have any sweetness in the taste, or at least not enough sweetness to make an impact on the palate.

    I would say you would need about $100 to get a beginner’s brew kit and a recipe kit. Some places have cool packages where you can get all the equipment and a simple beer ingredient kit for a low price (~80 bucks). Once you make that original purchase, many brew supply stores have recipe kits for around $30.

  3. Another reason you see a lot of dark beer in homebrewing circles, is ease of brewing. As an extract brewer the process is basically the same for all beer styles. Once you get the basic technique down its all pretty easy. However, dark beer is more forgiving. Dark beer has such a complex flavor profile that the newer/younger brewers can make great tasting beer each time. The complex flavor profile of dark beer hides a lot of subtle flaws that the newer brewer tends to create through inexperience.

    Most people only really hear about the newer brewers experiences, and they are brewing dark beers (and brewing them well).
    If you talk to more experienced homebrewers they are tackling things like pilsner, cream ale and kolsch. These light beers have delicate flavor porfiles and there is little complexity to help hid small mistakes in the brewing process.

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