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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Beer Discussion > What is the difference between a cream ale and a CAP?
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Old 06-20-2014, 05:40 PM   #1
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Default What is the difference between a cream ale and a CAP?

...other than a CAP exclusively having used a lager yeast. Considering a cream ale pitched with a lager yeast to me seems to be the same beer: historically six-row, corn adjunct up to 20%, around 25-30 IBUs, cluster hops...

Historically, cream ales used ale, lager, or a combination of both. Also historically, if you look up the history of cream ales and the history of CAPs they seem to "potentially"* begun around the same time, yet, each tells a different story as if they other style did not exist.

I am asking more in the terms of historical reference, not of the few commercial cream ales available today or of the current state of American "pilsners".

*according to the consensus (who ever that may be) both styles originated in the late 1800s.

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Old 06-21-2014, 02:56 PM   #2
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What is a CAP and can you point me to some sources of info on this?

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Old 06-21-2014, 03:51 PM   #3
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What is a CAP and can you point me to some sources of info on this?
Classic American Pilsner, also sometimes referred to as Pre-Prohibition Pilsner.

I don't know much about the historical aspects other than the little that's in the BJCP style guidelines, but going strictly by those guidelines the differences are slight, but distinct.

CAP is always made using a lager yeast and cold conditioning, Cream Ale is usually made using ale yeast (though lager can also be used) and historically was not cold conditioned (though a lot of brewers now do).

CAP has a higher OG range, going up to 1.060 vs 1.055 with Cream Ale.

Likewise, the upper ABV range for CAP is also higher.

Cream Ale should finish at a lower FG making for a drier beer.

The IBU range for CAP is beyond the range for Cream Ale, 25-40 vs 15-20.

Hop aroma and flavor is more pronounced in CAP vs almost nonexistent in Cream Ale.

So essentially, CAP is more full bodied, higher IBU, and slightly higher ABV, reminiscent of German Pilsner (although brewed with adjuncts), while Cream Ale is a more balanced, light refreshing beer.
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Old 06-21-2014, 03:58 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by ktblunden View Post
Classic American Pilsner, also sometimes referred to as Pre-Prohibition Pilsner.

I don't know much about the historical aspects other than the little that's in the BJCP style guidelines, but going strictly by those guidelines the differences are slight, but distinct.

CAP is always made using a lager yeast and cold conditioning, Cream Ale is usually made using ale yeast (though lager can also be used) and historically was not cold conditioned (though a lot of brewers now do).

CAP has a higher OG range, going up to 1.060 vs 1.055 with Cream Ale.

Likewise, the upper ABV range for CAP is also higher.

Cream Ale should finish at a lower FG making for a drier beer.

The IBU range for CAP is beyond the range for Cream Ale, 25-40 vs 15-20.

Hop aroma and flavor is more pronounced in CAP vs almost nonexistent in Cream Ale.

So essentially, CAP is more full bodied, higher IBU, and slightly higher ABV, reminiscent of German Pilsner (although brewed with adjuncts), while Cream Ale is a more balanced, light refreshing beer.
Pjj2ba makes a great CAP. It's in the database here, as something like "Uncle Bob's Old Timey". It's awesome.

To me, tastewise, a CAP is more like a German pilsner in the firm (but very drinkable) bitterness, while a cream ale is more "soft" and more like an American light lager in bitterness and mouthfeel, if that makes sense.
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Old 06-21-2014, 04:45 PM   #5
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Awesome, thanks for the clarification all. BJCP style guidelines only states "Occasional brewpub and microbrewery specials" for commercial examples. I did a little digging and found that Lucky Bucket Brewing Co. has a beer called Pre-Prohibition Style Lager. It is categorized as an American Pale Lager in BeerAdvocate and Premium Lager on RateBeer (sounds like a better category). I've heard of quite a few homebrewers making pre-prohibition style lagers but it looks like it doesn't seem to get much traction in the commercial circles. Since it seems that the style seems to be mixed in with all the other uncategorized lagers on the rating sites, do any of you have specific commercial examples of CAP that you like?

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Old 06-21-2014, 05:06 PM   #6
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Pjj2ba makes a great CAP. It's in the database here, as something like "Uncle Bob's Old Timey". It's awesome.

To me, tastewise, a CAP is more like a German pilsner in the firm (but very drinkable) bitterness, while a cream ale is more "soft" and more like an American light lager in bitterness and mouthfeel, if that makes sense.
Yeah that's a much more succinct way of putting it.
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Old 06-22-2014, 02:58 PM   #7
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I've made two batches of Cream of 3 Crops ale that were very good. Once I get my fermentation chamber I will be attempting a CAP post-haste! Can't wait...


Sent from my iPhone using Home Brew

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Old 06-23-2014, 05:23 PM   #8
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Pjj2ba makes a great CAP. It's in the database here, as something like "Uncle Bob's Old Timey". It's awesome.
I can second this. I tried making a couple of lagers, and did not care for the result. But having tried several of pjj2ba's lagers (German Pils? CAP, etc.) I really want to go back and try again.

I'm all out of Pilsner malt unfortunately, and I forgot to stop on the way home from NHC and pick some up.

I should scout the Fenton area to see if there is a LHBS I can grab some while we are down that way this weekend.
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Old 06-23-2014, 06:18 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ktblunden View Post
Classic American Pilsner, also sometimes referred to as Pre-Prohibition Pilsner.

I don't know much about the historical aspects other than the little that's in the BJCP style guidelines, but going strictly by those guidelines the differences are slight, but distinct.

CAP is always made using a lager yeast and cold conditioning, Cream Ale is usually made using ale yeast (though lager can also be used) and historically was not cold conditioned (though a lot of brewers now do).

CAP has a higher OG range, going up to 1.060 vs 1.055 with Cream Ale.

Likewise, the upper ABV range for CAP is also higher.

Cream Ale should finish at a lower FG making for a drier beer.

The IBU range for CAP is beyond the range for Cream Ale, 25-40 vs 15-20.

Hop aroma and flavor is more pronounced in CAP vs almost nonexistent in Cream Ale.

So essentially, CAP is more full bodied, higher IBU, and slightly higher ABV, reminiscent of German Pilsner (although brewed with adjuncts), while Cream Ale is a more balanced, light refreshing beer.
My understanding is that the cream ale style came about when ale brewers tried to mimic the lager beers being made by then-recent German and Czech immigrants that were becoming more-and-more popular in America by the day. There is another, although less reported, history of the cream ale style suggesting that it was created by German immigrants either attempting to brew a Kölsch-style beer, or, by attempting to brew a lager with "ale technology" (aka as steam beer although there is evidence that true steam beer evolved separately on its own).


How ever it came about, pre-Prohibition cream ales had a theoretical IBU between 25-40 with some accounts suggesting as high as 60. This makes sense considering that the cream ale was attempting to "be" what is now referred to as a CAP and that typically American beers at the time had higher IBUs in general. Cream ales were also "cold" cellared in an attempt to recreate a "lager", probably in the same way that many home-brewers try to recreate a decocted beer by adding a pinch of Melanoidin malt.

To my knowledge the BJCP style guidelines for a cream ale are based on the few current examples still being brewed today, not historical.

Ferment a CAP recipe with an ale yeast in the 50˚Fs and you have a cream ale. Ferment a cream ale recipe with lager yeast fermented at lager temps and you have a CAP. Ferment a cream ale with lager yeast at steam beer temps or use a combination of ale and lager yeasts and you have a cream ale. The real difference I can discern at this point is that a cream ale might have more, if only slightly more, esters and/or a lower, but only slightly, ABV. Considering that an American IPA on the lower end can easily be mistaken for a APA and vice-versa, I believe the differences here are a mere splitting of hairs.

Once again I am speaking from an historical aspect.
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