Style: Cream Ale
Brief History: The style is an ale version of the American lager style. It was originally produced by ale brewers to compete with lager breweries in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Some breweries used lager yeast strains in this beer; some still do this for historical reasons. The beer is cold conditioned as a lager would be to help with full attenuation, although this is not always necessary. The style has long been a favorite for many American beer drinkers and is currently undergoing a rise in popularity among craft beer drinkers.
Standard Characteristics: Cream Ales should be very clean, well-attenuated, yet very flavorful and have a lighter easy drinking quality, often referred to as being a “lawnmower beer.” The ABV for the style typically is in the 4.2 to 5.6 percent range.
Nose: A very malty aroma is expected often appearing as corn-like with little to no hop aromas present. Faint esters may be found in some examples but are not a necessity. The aroma should be balanced and non-assertive.
Body: Light to medium in body with a light, crisp, and smooth mouthfeel is to be expected. Some examples have high carbonation aiding in the crisp mouthfeel, while the key to this beer’s qualities lies in its thirst quenching ability.
Taste: Low to medium hop bitterness is instead replaced by moderate maltiness and sweetness that will vary according to beers attenuation. Neither malt nor hops should dominate, but instead should maintain balance and have a slight sweet taste from the corn, malt, or sugar used in the brewing process. The beer should also possess a fairly dry finish.
Food Pairing: Cream Ales are great beers to pair with American dishes such as hamburgers, ribs, steak, pizza, sandwiches, and salad. The light and semi-sweet characteristics make it the perfect beer to pair with a wide variety of foods including some spicier Mexican dishes as well.
Recommendations: The Cream Ale style is perfect for craft beer geeks with a jaded palate or those who are new to craft beer and still seeking a gateway beer. It is flavorful, yet still very light, easy drinking, and highly approachable no matter your background. Many breweries have begun brewing a great rendition of the cream ale style and here are just a few recommendations:
• 3 Guys & a Beer’d Brewing Company- Shaving Cream Ale
• Hardywood Park Craft Brewery- Cream Ale
• Sixpoint Brewery- Sweet Action
• New Glarus Brewing Company- Spotted Cow
• Carton Brewing Company- Regular Coffee
• Terrapin Beer Company- Terrapin Golden Ale
• Genesee Brewing Company- Genesee Cream Ale
• Anderson Valley Brewing – Summer Solstice
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian. Derek can be heard weekly on the Beer Geeks Radio Hour at noon every Sunday on 103.1 FM with past episodes available on iTunes.