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Make Your Best Cream Ale

Contrary to its name, the cream ale doesn’t have cream in its ingredients. Longtime homebrewer Josh Weikert walks you through the steps to make your best.

Josh Weikert Mar 19, 2017 - 8 min read

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For reasons that I seriously hope are benign, I honestly don’t remember too much about my childhood. One thing I definitely do remember (in addition to someone spilling hot tea on me at my second birthday party) is playing with a toy truck with “Genesee Cream Ale” written on the side. It was then that I fell in love with beer…

No, just kidding—but it does now seem kind of perfect. Genesee is at least one macro beer that a lot of beer geeks don’t mind drinking now and again, and while better versions are definitely out there (New Glarus Spotted Cow [New Glarus, Wisconsin] is probably the best lawnmower beer in the world), Genesee actually gets a lot of things right about the style and certainly helped to make and keep it popular. With the blizzard of 2017 still on the ground outside as I write this, I think it’s time to start thinking of summer—so, cream ale it is.


Think “good American lager, but not a lager” and you’ll be well on your way. Strictly speaking, cream ale is a hybrid beer, in that it can be made with either ale or lager yeast since it allows for a bit of esterification. Overall, this is in keeping with the reality that it’s a fairly restrained style. You won’t find strong flavors, and you definitely won’t find “cream” in it. I’ve tasted the results of people trying to make this beer creamy by adding things such as lactose to it, and it can safely be described as “highly unpleasant.” In fact, the best versions have an austere dryness to them that sets off nicely against a touch of classic American hops, or American-Noble hybrids, and a bit of berry ester. This beer should be refreshing, light, dry, and more flavorful than a typical dull American lager. “Hot day” beer. Baseball beer. Lawnmower beer.


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