Fine-Tuning The Cream Ale

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PCatsoulis

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Hey folks, for my next brew I want to do a simple cream ale. While there are plenty of recipes and really only a few simple rules to follow when making one, I wanna see if anyone can help build some input as to what I can do to really make my homebrew variant a consistent, go to beer for the friend (and hopefully one day consumer) alike. My current recipe is as follows:

5 gallon batch
7 lbs 6-row
2 lbs flaked maize
1 lb corn sugar (added before boil)
2 oz cluster (1 at 60 min and 1 at 20 min)
Wyeast Kolsch 2565 yeast
Ferment at ~55 F and bring up to 65 5-7 days in. Monitor fermentation for up to an additional week. Cold crash at 33-34 F for 24 hours, add priming solution and bottle (condition another 2 weeks).

Given this recipe, am I going too simple? I know I have seen people use a variety of ale malts and occasionally white wheat as adjuncts. I also know that I could use crystal hop pellets or any combination of neutral hops (saaz, cascade, spalt, etc...) as far as my greens go. Also Wyeast isn't the only company that makes Kolsch yeast (Omega and WLP make a few strains themselves) and on top of that WLP080 is a completely different blend of yeast made just for cream ales...There's a lot of variety for relatively neutral materials and my major question to you all is what have you found that works the best for you? Let me know :)
 

gunhaus

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I would skip the 6 row, and the notion of "rules' . I would also probably skip the sugar (One adjunct at a time is enough) 7lb 2 row 2 lbs of corn, 25 or so IBU's of what makes ya happy, and clean forgiving yeast. Brew -drink-enjoy or modify until you are happy ( YOU - Not others - YOU. Make others happy after you think it tastes good.) Or not - your choice!
 

BigEd

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Too simple? No. This should be a simple beer. Agree with gunhaus that I'd lose the sugar. If you want more ABV increase the grains a bit. Also agree on the six row. Nothing wrong with using it especially if you already have it but any extra pale malt will be just fine.

If you want to add another ingredient to the grain bill a 3-5% addition of light crystal malt would not be out of place. Cluster is a good choice for first addition but they're not know for great aroma qualities. I'd use a low alpha German or British type for the late addition.
 
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PCatsoulis

PCatsoulis

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Too simple? No. This should be a simple beer. Agree with gunhaus that I'd lose the sugar. If you want more ABV increase the grains a bit. Also agree on the six row. Nothing wrong with using it especially if you already have it but any extra pale malt will be just fine.

If you want to add another ingredient to the grain bill a 3-5% addition of light crystal malt would not be out of place. Cluster is a good choice for first addition but they're not know for great aroma qualities. I'd use a low alpha German or British type for the late addition.
Maybe do a late addition with an oz of Hallertau?
 
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PCatsoulis

PCatsoulis

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I would skip the 6 row, and the notion of "rules' . I would also probably skip the sugar (One adjunct at a time is enough) 7lb 2 row 2 lbs of corn, 25 or so IBU's of what makes ya happy, and clean forgiving yeast. Brew -drink-enjoy or modify until you are happy ( YOU - Not others - YOU. Make others happy after you think it tastes good.) Or not - your choice!
the whole reason for using the corn sugar was because it should convert well with the high-protein 6-row....at least that was the idea my buddy Tom gave me. Still glad to hear people coming in and pointing out that this recipe should be simple.
 

BigEd

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No conversion worries with that recipe. Corn sugar is sugar and most two row pale malt will convert their own weight in unmalted grain. I have used six row on occasion for these types of beer because I like the "husky/grainy" flavor. The difference of conversion enzyme content between modern two row and six row malts is negligible. Fifty years ago if you were making a beer with 40% corn or rice it would have been a consideration.

Hallertau or one of the US derivatives like Mt Hood would be very nice as the late hop. A half ounce is probably all you need.
 

z-bob

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I've made cream ales before with rice and with corn; my next beer will be 95% 2-row and 5% sugar because I want to see how that works :) (not to boost the alcohol so much as to dry the beer out.)

Cluster is a good 60 minutes hops. I would not add more at 20 minutes, though. I would switch to something like Willamette, Saaz, Tettnang, Mt Hood, etc. for the finishing hops. Or leave out the finishing hops altogether.
 

AlexKay

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Another vote for simple is good. This is almost exactly my recipe (6-row, maize, cluster at 60 and 20) though I skip the corn sugar, and I use Wyeast 1007.
 

couchsending

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With these clean simple beers process is as much if not more important that recipe.

What are you fermenting in? If fermenting cold pitch way more yeast. You’ll have a faster, cleaner ferment. It shouldn’t need more than a week. However don’t cold crash it. Slowly cool it down. Potentially leaving it at around 40 for a bit. This is not only traditional for lager but also for kolsch. It will help with the crispness of the beer. 2565 doesn’t flocc at all. You’re gonna want to give it some time to make sure you don’t end up with a bunch of it in bottles.

I know a brewery that has won Cream
Ale at GABF (twice I think) with 1318 fermented at 56 or so. Double the traditional pitch rates for ales of that gravity. Plus it floccs waaaaay better that 2565.
 
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PCatsoulis

PCatsoulis

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so i grabbed 2565 for this and I grabbed an oz of crystal for the 20 min mark (which I think I'll reduce to half). What i think is gonna make this beer my version is i am adding a lb of honey malt to the recipe I listed. I want a subtle sweetness to bring out the mouthfeel. Thoughts? (also its already in the grain bag so too late lol)
 
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bleme

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so i grabbed 2565 for this and I grabbed an oz of crystal for the 20 min mark (which I think I'll reduce to half). What i think is gonna make this beer my version is i am adding a lb of honey malt to the recipe I listed. I want a subtle sweetness to bring out the mouthfeel. Thoughts? (also its already in the grain bag so too late lol)
My first beer was a Northern Brewer Speckled Heifer (Spotted Cow clone). Their recipe now doesn't have any honey malt, but I think it used to. I've made 3 other cream ales since then, and always add at least 1/4lb of honey malt to my recipe. A full pound is way too much though.
 

z-bob

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What happens if you use a Belgian yeast to ferment a cream ale? I have some 1388 yeast slurry in the fridge from a gallon batch of mead, and it'll have been in there for a couple of months by the time I get to brew with it. I don't know if it's stressed or not, but a nice easy cream ale to munch on should bring it back to health.
 
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PCatsoulis

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My first beer was a Northern Brewer Speckled Heifer (Spotted Cow clone). Their recipe now doesn't have any honey malt, but I think it used to. I've made 3 other cream ales since then, and always add at least 1/4lb of honey malt to my recipe. A full pound is way too much though.
unfortunately it is already mixed in with the other grains :|
 
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PCatsoulis

PCatsoulis

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What happens if you use a Belgian yeast to ferment a cream ale? I have some 1388 yeast slurry in the fridge from a gallon batch of mead, and it'll have been in there for a couple of months by the time I get to brew with it. I don't know if it's stressed or not, but a nice easy cream ale to munch on should bring it back to health.
I am not entirely sure...I guess you'll get good attenuation out of the yeast but I would imagine that you'll get more a blonde mouthfeel out of the beer.
 

z-bob

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I am not entirely sure...I guess you'll get good attenuation out of the yeast but I would imagine that you'll get more a blonde mouthfeel out of the beer.
Yeah, I've decided to modify the recipe just a little (mostly just by changing the hops) and call it a Trappist Single. (Singel?) -- a blonde with just over 5% ABV and 25 to 30 IBU.
 

mrdauber64

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Using Cascade in a Cream ale is a good change. That is usually my go-to hop for cream ales. It gives a nice orange character when used at 5 minutes.
 
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PCatsoulis

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the whole reason for using the corn sugar was because it should convert well with the high-protein 6-row....at least that was the idea my buddy Tom gave me. Still glad to hear people coming in and pointing out that this recipe should be simple.
Also I just realized that made no sense haha. I guess I am just using the corn sugar for the sake of having some more sugar. My buddy Tom gave me the base recipe.
 
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PCatsoulis

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Ok, so here's what I have put together for this beer recipe:

7 lbs 6 Row
2 lbs flaked corn
1 lb honey malt
1 lb corn sugar (boil)
1 oz cluster (60 min)
0.5 oz crystal (10 min)
1 packet wyeast Kolsch 2565
1 whirlfloc tablet (15 min)
1 tbsp pH 5.2 Stabilizer (mash)

-90 minute mash @ 150 F (beersmith is telling me to strike at 159 for this)
-90 minute boil
-pitch at room temp, cool the wort to 55 F in fridge for the first week
-raise to 65 F after a week
-once fermentation is done, cold crash to ~35-40 F for 24 hours, add priming solution and keg

My boss at my homebrew shop told me the honey malt would have a very subtle flavor so I am hoping a pound isn't too much. If it is then I will scale it back on the next go around with this.
 
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PCatsoulis

PCatsoulis

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Using Cascade in a Cream ale is a good change. That is usually my go-to hop for cream ales. It gives a nice orange character when used at 5 minutes.
I actually really like the way that sounds. I will definitely consider it on my next cream ale attempt
 

z-bob

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That pH 5.2 buffer doesn't have a very good reputation around here. Have you used it before?

Also, a pound of sugar is a lot.
 
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PCatsoulis

PCatsoulis

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That pH 5.2 doesn't have a very good reputation around here. Have you used it before?
I have not...but currently my recipe is reading a mash pH of 5.67...what alternatives are there?
 

z-bob

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I have not...but currently my recipe is reading a mash pH of 5.67...what alternatives are there?
4 ounces or so of German acid malt? Or half a teaspoon of 88% Lactic acid.

Edit: a teaspoon of lactic acid. I was thinking 5ml and coverted it to tsp wrong in my head. A half teaspoon might be enough; just depends on how much bicarbonate is in your water.
 
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Tobor_8thMan

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I just brewed a, hopefully, Spotted Cow on June 13, 2020. Kegged August 31, 2020. CO2 Carbonated. Tapped Thursday, September 3, 2020.

Problem? I can't find my saved authentic bottle of Spotted Cow to compare. D'oh! Spotted Cow, from what I find, is only available in Wisconsin. A friend of the family visited a family event several years ago and brought a case of Spotted Cow. This was the first I drank Spotted Cow, really enjoyed the flavor and wanted to make my own.

I, and I believe others, consider Spotted Cow as a cream ale. Interesting to note the following at the New Glarus website describing Spotted Cow.

New Glarus Brewing


"Cask conditioned ale has been the popular choice among brews since long before prohibition. We continue this pioneer spirit with our Wisconsin farmhouse ale. Brewed with the finest American malts. We even give a nod to our farmers.

Naturally cloudy we allow the yeast to remain in the bottle to enhance fullness of flavors, which cannot be duplicated otherwise. Expect this ale to be fun, fruity and satisfying. You know you're in Wisconsin when you see the Spotted Cow."

Well, I got the naturally cloudy correct as I rushed things and didn't fine with plain gelatin as I normally would do as I wanted to get back to another fellow HBTer on this brew. I feel as if I brewed a damn good cream ale. Is it Spotted Cow? I'm trying to recall as it was at least 3 years ago when I had them. However, I do recall more of a corn taste flavor in the real Spotted Cow unless this was a defect. My version doesn't have the corn taste flavor. Am I chasing a defect?

Also interesting to note New Glarus changed their description of Spotted Cow.

As Per the Internet Archive/Wayback Machine, the description as late as March 2015 read as such (emphasis mine): "Cask conditioned ale has been the popular choice among brews since long before prohibition. We continue this pioneer spirit with our Wisconsin farmhouse ale. Brewed with flaked barley and the finest Wisconsin malts. We even give a nod to our farmers with a little hint of corn. "

Interesting... as the corn is what I remember the most.

Also from What Is A Spotted Cow? » All Spotted Cow In One Guide! - homebrewadvice.com

"The beer is a blend of PIlsner malt, white wheat and caramel malt. The water comes from the well at the brewery property and has a hard character to it. The hops used for Spotted Cow are the noble Saaz hops, which is collected during selection each year and a German ale yeast. "

Hmm... I didn't use white wheat. The description above, to me sounds like a Belgian Wit, except for the German ale yeast. I used a repitched Wyeast 1056.

While typing this long reply, I texted my brother-in-law. He has 1 remaining bottle of the authentic Spotted Cow. Realize it is several years old, but it's been in the fridge the whole type. I will not be able to obtain the bottle until later in September.

Input, thoughts, etc? Thanks.
 
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z-bob

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Hmm... I didn't use white wheat. The description above, to me sounds like a Belgian Wit, except for the German ale yeast. I used a repitched Wyeast 1056.

While typing this long reply, I texted my brother-in-law. He has 1 remaining bottle of the authentic Spotted Cow. Realize it is several years old, but it's been in the fridge the whole type. I will not be able to obtain the bottle until later in September.

Input, thoughts, etc? Thanks.
Yes. I really like Spotted Cow (I like Moon Man better) But instead of trying to clone it; especially a moving target and you have trouble getting samples of the original, use what you remember about it as inspiration to brew your own cream ale. Keep the bitterness kinda low (but my last cream ale attempt was too low) and the gravity moderate. Hops to try include Mt Hood, Crystal, Willamette, and maybe Cluster or Cascade for bittering. If you add any crystal malt, don't use much.

I think Spotted Cow uses corn now, but not nearly as much as macro lagers. And I'm pretty sure it's filtered.
 

z-bob

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I brew several very good cream ales. Was hoping to brew a Spotted Cow.
Northern Brewer's kits have a pretty good reputation, and here's their interpretation of Spotted Cow:

I think either a German ale yeast, or yeast cultured from Bell's Oberon or 2 Hearted would be better choices than US-05. But the recipe looks solid, and there's room for experimenting a little (replace the flaked barley with more corn, use different 15 minute hops, etc) You might try it exactly as written the first time and see how it goes.
 

Immocles

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I'll throw my hat in for a German ale yeast. I normally used notty for cream ales, but I really, really liked 1007 in a cream ale.
 

duncan.brown

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Interesting... as the corn is what I remember the most.
I lived in Wisconsin for 5 years (in-laws still live there) and I’ve drunk a lot of New Glarus beers. I heard an interview with Dan Carey a few years ago where he said that the original recipe for Spotted Cow had corn in it, but they no longer use it. I think the reason was that New Glarus wanted to use non-GMO ingredients and they had trouble sourcing corn that was guaranteed to be non-GMO.

I’ll see if I can dig up the source to confirm my memory.
 

duncan.brown

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And I'm pretty sure it's filtered.
The last Spotted Cow I had (Thanksgiving 2019) was still cloudy, so I don’t think it’s filtered. New Glarus pasteurizes all of their beers so you can’t propagate any of their yeast, unfortunately. I believe Dan Carey has also confirmed in interviews that Cow uses a Kolsch yeast, but I have no idea which strain.
 

Tobor_8thMan

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Here’s the interview with Dan Carey where he confirms that corn was removed from the Spotted Cow recipe:

Interesting "Some people call Spotted Cow a cream ale, but it doesn’t fit into those style guidelines because it’s unfiltered, Carey says. At they brewery, they call it a farmhouse ale, but so long as people drink it, they don’t much mind what you call it."

IMO, if it tastes like a cream ale, it's a cream ale. Doesn't matter if it's cloudy or not. Geez... lots of homebrews are cloudy as they are not fined. A lot of homebrewers could care less. I recently did an experiment of cold crashing, cold crashing and fining and only fining. Analyzing data/results.

Dan Carey's explanation of "farmhouse" is quite different than what most think of a farmhouse beer. Think Belgians.

Also, the article has "When Carey first made Spotted Cow, the beer featured about 10 percent corn in the grain bill as “a nod to what the farmers might have used." My Spotted Cow used 17.8% flaked maize.

I also read their recipe is now all malt as the corn was removed due to GMO worries. Carey states "Very few people noticed." IMO, should be very obvious as corn provides a certain flavor/taste. I experimented by making several different cream ales. 1 with maize and 1 with flaked rice. I preferred the one brewed with maize.

I note another HBT brewer used honey malt and claimed, to them, this is the missing ingredient. I'm not so sure about using honey malt in a Spotted Cow.

"As for what makes up Spotted Cow, it’s a blend of Pilsner malt, white wheat, and caramel malt." Interesting. No Munich malt or flaked barley.

Normally CBB provides a recipe. Shame one is lacking for this article.
 

duncan.brown

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Normally CBB provides a recipe. Shame one is lacking for this article.
Dan Carey is very cagy about New Glarus' recipes. That's actually the most information I've ever seen in one place about any of their beers (and I've looked hard, I'm a big fan).

Interestingly, in another interview he states that Totally Naked (their American Lager) is 10% corn, so it sounds like they are using corn again.
 

duncan.brown

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Wyeast 2565 or similar.
As usual, the devil is in the "or similar." I few years ago in Denver, I had two otherwise identical Kolsch beers brewed by a pro with 2565 and another with a yeast from a commercial supplier (I forget exactly what... might have been BSI A-65 or BRY 401) and the two were noticeably different.

That said, 2565 is one of my favorite yeasts for both Kolsch and cream ales.
 

duncan.brown

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I'm curious is anyone on has tried making a cream ale by blending wort fermented with a lager strain and wort fermented with an ale strain?

Apparently, this is how they make (or used to make) Genesee Cream Ale.
 

z-bob

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The last Spotted Cow I had (Thanksgiving 2019) was still cloudy, so I don’t think it’s filtered. New Glarus pasteurizes all of their beers so you can’t propagate any of their yeast, unfortunately. I believe Dan Carey has also confirmed in interviews that Cow uses a Kolsch yeast, but I have no idea which strain.
The last I had was in February of this year, and I thought it poured clear, but I guess that doesn't mean it's filtered. Maybe the yeast just settled out and stuck to the can.
 

Tobor_8thMan

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October 11, 2020 compared, with a few friend and wife, actual Spotted Cow (in bottles) vs the recipe I brewed (with the recipe from HBT).

Pale Ale Malt (47.5%)

Pils Malt (17.8%)

Flaked Maize (17.8%)

Dark Munich (5.5%)

Crystal 20L (5.5%)

Flaked Barley (6%)

Northern Brewer (9.4 IBUs, 60 minutes)

Saaz (4.8 IBUs, 30 minutes)

Wyeast 1056 (repitch, plenty of yeast)

Color: Spotted Cow: Yellow in color. My Spotted Cow: Darker yellow – somewhat orange. IMO, I think this is not knowing. IMO, my Spotted Cow is a Pale Ale color.

Taste: Unfortunately, the real Spotted Cow in bottles were, at this point, several years old (they were kept refrigerated, out of the sun, etc). Everyone like my version much better than the real beer. However, I thought the real Spotted Cow reminded me of a Belgian Blonde. Others didn’t know any better and had no opinion when I mentioned the Belgian Blonde I brewed in 2014.

Aroma: See Taste notes above.

In general: Perhaps for my next Spotted Cow I should use a Belgian yeast? I honestly believe the real Spotted Cow reminds me of the Brueghel Blonde Ale (North American Clone Brews, page 119).
 

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I'm curious is anyone on has tried making a cream ale by blending wort fermented with a lager strain and wort fermented with an ale strain?

Apparently, this is how they make (or used to make) Genesee Cream Ale.
White labs wlp 080 cream ale blend is just that a blend of the 2 yeasts, but if you meant blend after fermentation maybe only brew that comes to mind is Sam Adams Sam 76'.

I brew more cream ale than probably anything else. I have pretty much kept it pils 80%
adjunct of choice 20%(white rice, flaked corn, popcorn,grits, corn meal)
10-15 ibu and a nice clean yeast either wlp 080 or notty
Now I have moved to
Pils 70%
Adjunct 20%
Wheat malt 10%
Centennial at 30 & 10
Wlp080

Keep it simple less to screw up.
 
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