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Cream Ale

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Cream Ale is an indigenous American beer style. Usually brewed with lager yeast at warmer ale temperatures, it is a light-colored, mild-flavored beer, with a base similar to an American pale lager and often a distinctive corn flavor from the use of corn adjuncts. In its heyday, cream ale was also known as Common Beer or Present Use Ale.


In the U.K., the term "Cream Ale" is sometimes used to describe nitrogen-dispensed beers, now more commonly called Smooth Ale.


[edit] History of Cream Ale

Once common in the United States, especially in the upper Midwest, Cream Ale was one of the few indigenous American beer styles to have survived Prohibition in the United States, due in part to its popularity in Canada, where Prohibition was less widespread and shorter.


[edit] Types of Cream Ale

In addition to standard cream ales, in the area around Louisville a distinct style of dark, sometimes slightly sour beer arose which was sometimes called Common Beer or Dark Cream Common; this style is now most frequently called Kentucky Common.


[edit] Brewing Cream Ale

The keys to cream ale brewing are yeast strain and temperature control. Historically, lager yeast was generally used, but because refrigeration was not generally available, fermentation temperatures were high, as was the case with Steam Beer. Some modern brewers use both ale and lager strains, usually pitched together at the beginning of the fermentation. However, there is no evidence that this was a method known before Prohibition.


To avoid excessive ester production from the lager yeast, temperature control is essential. A fermentation temperature of approximately 68 degrees F is often a good balance, especially when both ale and lager yeasts are used, but you will need to experiment based on your individual yeast and wort characteristics.


The grist for a cream ale usually includes a mixture of six-row American pale barley malt and corn adjuncts, which can give a distinctive DMS-like corn flavor and aroma that many consider characteristic of this style.


[edit] Competition Styles

Both the GABF and the BJCP recognize this style.


[edit] BJCP Style Guidelines

[edit] Cream Ale

6A. Cream Ale Vital Statistics
BJCP Style Guideline Definition (2004)
IBUs: 15-20+ SRM: 2.5-5 OG: 1.042-1.055 FG: 1.006-1.012 ABV: 4.2-5.6
Aroma: Faint malt notes. A sweet, corn-like aroma and low levels of DMS are commonly found. Hop aroma low to none. Any variety of hops may be used, but neither hops nor malt dominate. Faint esters may be present in some examples, but are not required. No diacetyl.
Appearance: Pale straw to moderate gold color, although usually on the pale side. Low to medium head with medium to high carbonation. Head retention may be no better than fair due to adjunct use. Brilliant, sparkling clarity.
Flavor: Faint malt notes. A sweet, corn-like aroma and low levels of DMS are commonly found. Hop aroma low to none. Any variety of hops may be used, but neither hops nor malt dominate. Faint esters may be present in some examples, but are not required. No diacetyl.
Mouthfeel: Generally light and crisp, although body can reach medium. Smooth mouthfeel with medium to high attenuation; higher attenuation levels can lend a "thirst quenching" finish. High carbonation. Higher gravity examples may exhibit a slight alcohol warmth.
Overall Impression: Faint malt notes. A sweet, corn-like aroma and low levels of DMS are commonly found. Hop aroma low to none. Any variety of hops may be used, but neither hops nor malt dominate. Faint esters may be present in some examples, but are not required. No diacetyl.
History: An ale version of the American lager style. Produced by ale brewers to compete with lager brewers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States. Originally known as sparkling or present use ales, lager strains were (and sometimes still are) used by some brewers, but were not historically mixed with ale strains. Many examples are kräusened to achieve carbonation. Cold conditioning isn't traditional, although modern brewers sometimes use it.
Comments: Classic American (i.e. pre-prohibition) Cream Ales were slightly stronger, hoppier (including some dry hopping) and more bitter (25-30+ IBUs). These versions should be entered in the specialty/experimental category. An OG of 1.050 - 1.053 is most common and IBUs are rarely as high as 25.
Ingredients: American ingredients most commonly used. A grain bill of six-row malt, or a combination of six-row and North American two-row, is common. Adjuncts can include up to 20% flaked maize in the mash, and up to 20% glucose or other sugars in the boil. Soft water preferred. Any variety of hops can be used for bittering and finishing.
Commercial Examples: Genesee Cream Ale, Little Kings Cream Ale (Hudepohl), Sleeman Cream Ale, Liebotschaner Cream Ale (Lion Brewery), Dave's Original Cream Ale (Molson), New Glarus Spotted Cow Farmhouse Ale, Wisconsin Brewing Whitetail Cream Ale


[edit] GABF Style Listings

[edit] American-Style Cream Ale or Lager

1. American-Style Cream Ale or Lager
GABF Style Listing (2007)
A mild, pale, light-bodied ale, made using a warm fermentation (top or bottom) and cold lagering. Hop bitterness and flavor range from very low to low. Hop aroma is often absent. Sometimes referred to as cream ales, these beers are crisp and refreshing. Pale malt character predominates. Caramelized malt character should be absent. A fruity or estery aroma may be perceived. Diacetyl and chill haze should not be perceived. Sulfur character and/or sweet corn-like dimethylsulfide (DMS) should be extremely low or absent from this style of beer.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.044-1.052 (11-13 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.004-1.010 (1-2.5 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 3.4-4.5% (4.2-5.6%)
Bitterness (IBU): 10-22
Color SRM (EBC): 2-5 (4-10 EBC)


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