Friday 24 February 2023

Cream Ale - Recipe Creation Guide

First things first - a Cream Ale does not contain cream or any kind of dairy or dairy products, or vanilla flavouring, or anything of the sort. In fact, we'd argue the name is probably one of the worst beer style names to exist, simply because the initial impression it gives to just about anyone who has never had one is that it would contain something of the sort - like a Milkshake IPA for example which contains lactose.

Which is incredibly disappointing, as the Cream Ale style is fantastic, easy drinking and would undoubtedly appeal to a broad drinking audience.

Unfortunately there is no straight answer on where the name came from, and there's little chance of it ever changing, so let's just move on.

So what is a Cream Ale then? It's essentially an ale version of an American lager - produced by Ale brewers to compete with their lager brewing counterparts. A clean, crisp, refreshing ale, usually made with corn or rice based adjuncts. Could be considered a lawn mower beer.


Pale straw to moderate gold in colour, although will usually be more on the pale side of this range. Low to medium head with medium to high visible carbonation, although head retention may suffer due to the use of adjuncts in the grist. It should appear brilliant, sparkling clear.


Malt notes should be restrained with some sweet corn like aromas typically present from the inclusion of corn based adjuncts. Low hop aroma with any variety of hops permitted - so new world and noble hop varieties give a plethora of options. Low levels of DMS are commonly found, along with some faint yeast esters but are not required. Hops and malt should generally be balanced with neither dominating. Diacetyl should not be present and is considered a flaw.


Low to medium-low hop bitterness. Low to moderate maltiness and sweetness that can vary along with gravity and attenuation rates. Should be well attenuated and have a dry finish - with neither hops nor malt dominating the palate, as with the nose. A low to moderate corny flavour is commonly found as is small amounts of DMS. Faint fruity esters are optional. Diacetyl should not be present and is considered a flaw.


Light, crisp and clean is what is called for here although the body can reach medium in bigger versions. Mouthfeel should be smooth with medium to high attenuation - higher attenuation is probably preferred and can give that thirst quenching finish. Carbonation should be high, and high alcohol versions may give a slightly alcoholic warmth.

Vital Statistics

ABV: 4.2% - 5.6%
IBU: 15 - 20
SRM: 2.5 - 5
OG: 1.042 - 1.055
FG: 1.006 - 1.012


American two row or six row malt - 60 - 90%
Adjuncts (typically corn or rice based) - 5 - 20%
Simple sugars (typically glucose or dextrose) - 1 - 20%

The majority of the grain bill should be two row, six row, or pilsner malt, or any combination of these. Sticking to one or two varieties is probably best as this isn't a malt forward beer so a complex flavour profile isn't required here.

Anywhere from 5% up to 20% of the grist can be made of corn or rice based adjuncts like corn based maize which is a common adjunct in American styles like this.

Up to 20% of the grist can be simple sugars like glucose or dextrose - we'd probably recommend keeping closer to 10% or less to avoid any fusel alcohol flavours, though some form of simple sugar being included is a good idea to help promote a lower finishing gravity and dry finish.


Brewers have the flexibility here of opting for noble or new world hop varieties - but we'd recommend choosing one or the other. 

Whirlpool Hop Additions

Whirlpool hop additions are not required for this style - sufficient bittering and hop flavour can be gained from typical boil hop additions.

Dry Hopping

Dry hopping is not necessary for the Cream Ale style, though there is a Classic American (pre-prohibition) Cream Ale style that is stronger, hoppier and has more bitterness that can allow for this.

Mash (Temperature & Time)

Mash @ 65°C (to create a highly fermentable wort to leave promote a high attenuation and dry finish)
Mashout @ 75°C for 10 minutes


The style dictates a clean, dry finish, so any clean and highly attenuating yeast variety will do here. You can go with the good old SafAle US-05, or for some slight fruity esters you can look at using a Kolsch yeast. This is considered an Ale but brewers have been known to use lager strains like W-34/70 fermented warmer to promote some fruity esters. Hubrid strains like the new NovaLager will work well too.

Water Profile

A balanced water profile with generally low levels of key minerals is suitable, and with sulfate and chloride levels kept in balance.

Fermentation Temperature

If using a lager yeast strain, ferment it at the higher range of the recommended temperature. If using an ale yeast strain, ferment it at the lower end of the recommended temperature range to help promote a clean finish.

Pressure Fermentation

Pressure fermentation can be beneficial for this style of beer as fermenting under pressure will help to suppress any off flavours from being created - especially when fermenting at the upper range of a yeasts recommended temperature. Shoot for around 10-15 psi in order to not place too much stress on the yeast.

Cold Crashing

Cold crashing can be beneficial to this style of beer as it can help the hop debris settle to the bottom of the fermenter with the rest of the trub which in turn helps improve the clarity of the beer (which is a requirement of the style as per "Appearance").

Sample Recipe

Cream Ale Recipe (All Grain)

Related Articles

All Recipe Creation Guides

All-Grain Recipe List

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