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Recipe: American Throwback Cream Ale

Inspired by tantalizing descriptions of cream ale from the early 20th century, this recipe combines ideas from both the pre- and post-Prohibition eras—including corn in the grist, dry hopping, and above-average strength.

Jeff Alworth , Joe Stange Feb 4, 2021 - 3 min read

Recipe: American Throwback Cream Ale Primary Image

Photo: Matt Graves/mgravesphoto.com

ALL-GRAIN
Batch size: 5 gallons (19 liters)
Brewhouse efficiency: 72%
OG: 1.058
FG: 1.011
IBUs: 35
ABV: 6.2%

MALT/GRAIN BILL
8 lb (3.6 kg) pale six-row
3.4 lb (1.5 kg) flaked corn

HOPS SCHEDULE
0.5 oz (14 g) Cluster [6% AA] at 60 minutes
1 oz (28 g) Cluster [6% AA] at 30 minutes
1 oz (28 g) Hallertauer Mittelfrüh [4% AA] at 10 minutes
1.5 oz (43 g) Hallertauer Mittelfrüh [4% AA] at flame-out/whirlpool
1 oz (28 g) Hallertauer Mittelfrüh [4% AA] at dry hop

YEAST
Nottingham

DIRECTIONS
Mill the malt, then mix in the flaked corn. Mash at 149°F (65°C) for 1 hour, then raise the temperature to 168°F (69°C) and mash out. Lauter and sparge to get about 6.8 gallons (26 liters) of wort—or more, depending on your evaporation rate. Boil for 90 minutes, adding hops according to the schedule, then whirlpool for 10 minutes. Chill the wort to 68°F (20°C), aerate well, and pitch the yeast. Ferment for 7–10 days at 68–70°F (20–21°C), then add dry hops for another 4–7 days. When fermentation is complete, crash and lager for 1–2 weeks, then package and carbonate to about 2.5 volumes.

BREWER’S NOTES
Following Wahl & Henius of 1901, we have a grist of 30 percent corn. If you want to go really authentic, get grits instead of flakes and do a cereal mash see “Cereal Mashup,” beerandbrewing.com. Another variation they describe: Go with 25 percent sugar instead of corn. The purpose of these adjuncts was to lighten the color and body.

We’re also embracing their 1901 reporting of up to 1½ pounds (680 g) of hops per barrel (almost 4 oz/113 g per 5 gallons/19 liters). We push much of that later in the boil, to avoid harsher bitterness and because the alpha-acid content and storage of the hops back then is a big question mark—and because hop flavor is delicious. The mix of Cluster and imported hops is another reasonable guess, but feel free to stick with U.S.-grown Noble-ish hops—or get more creative.

Following Wahl’s 1937 description, we’re definitely dry hopping—as many ale brewers back then did—and we’re aiming for a gravity of 14 Balling (i.e., 1.057-ish) and an ABV upward of 6 percent.

The yeast is another guess, since many breweries at the time used heirloom British ale yeasts. The Nottingham strain ferments pretty cleanly and flocculates well, bearing in mind that these beers were also called “sparkling” ales. If you want a cleaner, more lager-like profile, you can sub in Chico, German ale, or even a lager strain (such as SafLager W-34/70), but at similar temperatures.

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