If you’ve never had a cream ale before and someone hands you one, your first sip may leave you a bit confused. Despite the name, there’s not a drop of dairy product in this ale. In fact, it tastes a lot like an American lager.

Cream Ale
Brew this Cream Ale in less than an hour!

While the origin of the name is a mystery, the history is quite clear. The style was born in the mid-1800s, when American ale breweries started losing business to German-style lager breweries and needed a beer to compete.

Like lagers, these ales are light and refreshing with a straw to pale golden color. There’s usually not a strong hop or malt presence to this thirst-quenching beer. In order to lighten the body, adjuncts like corn or rice are commonly used.

Cream Ale Commercial Examples

Brewing considerations

American Pale Malt should be used as the base. For the Extract Brewer, Light DME is used. While the all-grain brewer can use six-row malt. There’s really no need to steep any grains for added flavor or color.

Corn, in the form of sugar can be added to lighten the beer body.

Any American hop variety can be used. Well-attenuating American yeast should be used. Historically brewers have used lager yeast, but West Coast or American Ale yeast, like Safale US-05 or Yeast 1056 are good choices.

Alcohol content is fairly low and should been the 4-5% range.

Check out recipes including one for this style.