Originally Posted by danlad
I'm intrigued by cream ale. Could anyone chip in with opinions and suggestions on brewing one, and any pitfalls to avoid?
Obviously it is more a US style of beer, but to be honest it doesn't half remind me of some of the simpler, less prestigious UK beers with its adjunct use and aim of being easy drinking, lighter, cheaper and faster out the door for drinking. It's aiming roughly for the same target taste I think. Cleanish tasting pseudolager, without all that difficult, time consuming German brewing expertise and attention to quality
Weeeeeeelllll...not so much.
a clean, light, pseudo-lager. While an ale, it has many light lager characteristics, including low bitterness (and hops flavor/aroma) and rather large proportions of adjuncts in the grist.
It is not
a cheaper, faster-out-the-door beer requiring relatively low experience and no attention to quality. In point of fact, quite the inverse is true - the lower the flavor threshold, the greater skill is required to brew something worth drinking.
Essentially, Cream Ale is a Premium Lager with a bit more flavor from yeast esters and slightly elevated hops profiles. Pre-Prohibition examples were more robust, just like Pre-Pro Premium Lagers.
So what is the best way of brewing a good one simply? I'm AG and would look to dry yeast as I'm not prepared enough just at the moment to get a starter going. No posh lagering gear either, just simple cooler mashtun+boiler+brew bucket.
Malt would be MO, because that is what I have. It seems that even paler malts would be the ideal though, but hey. Hop wise, I have a freezer full of UK hops, some unopened saaz, aurora and hallertauer hersbrucker and some high alpha NZ ones.
First, let me say that Cream of 3 Crops is an excellent choice. What follows is my advice.
Okay. MO is really not the base malt for this. You can use it, but it is suboptimal. You really want a Pils or even 6-row pale malt. I use 6-row, though 2-row (non-MO) can be used in a mix. Use at least 20% adjunct in the grist. I like 25-30% flaked maize, as that seems to be common in available commercially-brewed Cream Ales, such as Genessee. Some brewers use 10-20% adjunct in the grist and 10-20% sugar in kettle. I opt to not use sugars and use adjunct grain instead. Target an OG of ~1048-50 or 12-13 degrees Plato.
Hops should be restrained, no more than 18-20 IBU. Variety is unimportant. A hint - just a hint
- of hops flavor/aroma is often nice, but don't overdo it.
Ferment with a clean ale yeast like S-05. Nottingham is a good second choice. Whatever strain you choose, ferment on the cool end of the spectrum to suppress ester formation.
- is the aim to go for a very dry finish, or is a little bit of sweetness preferred just to hold on behind the low hopping rates?
Don't attenuate too dry. It should finish clean, but there ought to be a low level of grainy sweetness.
- am I wasting my time and I'd be better off just doing a straight, unfussy, all malt pale ale instead of trying to cut the same corners that megabreweries get slated for cutting?
Well, again, these beers are not
brewed by cutting corners. They're brewed with more skill than either you or I are ever likely to achieve.
They are simple, but such pale beers with low flavors leave very little room to hide flaws.
That's why the answer to your question is an equivocal "Yes." If you want a challenge, give it a try. It's really not that hard to pull off - the most important challenge is keeping the ale yeast going at a relatively low temperature.
It's worth noting that if the best you can do is ferment it at 65F, you'll still end up with an easy-drinking, quaffable pint. It ain't Adnams Fisherman, but nothing is!
The recipe for my 1950s American Premium Lager is here
. Just sub S-05 for the yeast listed and ferment it on the lower edge of the range specific to that yeast, and you'll be golden (if you'll pardon the pun).