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.