Cream ale is what most people would call a “lawnmower beer” – as in a beer that is simple, refreshing and can be consumed quickly, whilst you’re working in the garden or busy with some other mundane activity…much like standard mass-produced lagers you find all over the world today.
Cream ale is thought to be a prohibition beer, but in truth it was brewed 150 years prior to that, but was one of the precious few beer styles that survived and was refined during the American prohibition (if there was one small glimmer of good news to one of the most stupid ideas in history, that would be it). Cream ale was American brewers’ answer to lagers brought in by German immigrants during the 1800’s in the USA. No one is really sure where the term “cream ale” came from, but some think it is due to the fact that the main cereal other than malt used is corn. Some other names include “brilliant ale” or “sparkling ale” – however don’t confuse the last name with either Australian sparkling ale or British summer ale, as those are completely different styles.
Cream ale is an ale brewers answer to mass-produced american-style light lager, they both use other cereals such as rice or corn to thin out the body, making a more easily drinkable beer. However, Cream ale is still an ale, which means it has a lot more character than lager yeasts and extra steps need to be taken to create a beer that is uncomplicated and infinitely drinkable. My own recipe includes both rice and a tiny amount of brown sugar – the rice thins the body out, and the brown sugar makes sure that the finish gets that perfectly dry and crisp character that lager yeasts are so smug about!
Since this is my own beer that was chosen as one of the winning beers, I’ll explain to you what to look for when drinking it, since me reviewing it myself is a bit weird and awkward – like cracking a joke and laughing even when no one else gets it. Take the notes at the bottom, review it, and let me know what you think. I do believe, however, that the reason it won was that it was brewed exactly according to style, able to compete with other beers in the same category anywhere in the world – which, actually, is how I brew all my beers..
So, should you want to check it out and find out for yourself, go down to Brewer Street on Sohna road and use the following criteria to judge it yourself:
STYLE CATEGORY 1C: Cream Ale
Aroma – Medium-low to low malt notes, with a sweet, cornlike aroma. Low levels of DMS are allowable, but are not required. Hop aroma medium low to none, and can be of any variety although floral, spicy, or herbal notes are most common. Overall, a subtle aroma with neither hops nor malt dominating. Low fruity esters are optional.
Appearance – Pale straw to moderate gold color, although usually on the pale side. Low to medium head with medium to high carbonation. Fair head retention. Brilliant, sparkling clarity.
Flavor – Low to medium-low hop bitterness. Low to moderate maltiness and sweetness, varying with gravity and attenuation. Usually well-attenuated. Neither malt nor hops dominate the palate. A low to moderate corny flavor is commonly found, as is light DMS (optional). Finish can vary from somewhat dry to faintly sweet. Low fruity esters are optional. Low to mediumlow hop flavor (any variety, but typically floral, spicy, or herbal).
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” quality. High carbonation.
Comments – 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 historical category. Most commercial examples are in the 1.050–1.053 OG range, and bitterness rarely rises above 20 IBUs.
(Thanks to the BJCP for the above notes and all the effort they’ve put in to beer over the years – I’m your biggest fan!)
If you’ve tried it, let me know what you think!