Friday 14 April 2023

Cream Ale - Tasting Results & Review

Our Cream Ale/International Lager in the Craftd Freddy glass

Straight off the bat, in terms of overall quality, balance and flavour profile, this is probably the best beer we've made to date. Constant tweaks to water chemistry, in particular making sure our mash and sparge pH levels are within the 5.2 - 5.6 range has made all the difference in eliminating all off flavours our palate is capable of detecting. We also made a conscious decision to really strip things back to a really simple and straightforward recipe, without loads of hop flavour like we've been doing in many previous brews.

In terms of being a "cream ale" - it arguably is, however we've found it more closely resembles an international pale lager. With the use of lager yeast (W34/70), it technically is a lager, but also the classic noble hop of hallertauer mittelfru, some corn based adjunct (maize) and a bit of simple sugar (dextrose). To our taste it came out very much like a Heineken. A true cream ale would perhaps be better suited with some new world hops and a clean fermenting ale yeast like US-05 - which is what we'll try next time. If you look at the BJCP guidelines for the two styles (international pale lager and cream ale), you'll notice there's quite a bit of overlap between them anyway.

We're super happy with how this one turned out even if it wasn't exactly how we had planned, but sometimes accidents and missing the mark aren't an entirely bad thing!

Let's dig a bit deeper into how it turned out;


Super pale in colour and by far the clearest beer we've ever brewed, it's certainly appetising to look at. The whirlfloc tablet worked wonders and this is something we'll be including in all future brews with the exception of course of hazy styles. It needed a good few weeks to drop fully clear in the keg, but we’re pleased with where it’s at without needing any additional cold side finings. A nice clean white foamy head (perhaps a little too large on initial pours from a warm kegerator tap) is apparent and has some good staying power.


There is not a huge amount of aroma as you'd expect from a beer like this - since the grain bill is fairly neutral and there isn't a great deal of hops at play. It's all in balance as it should be, but you do get a slight hint of the lager yeast on the nose up front.


This one is very easy drinking and to our taste has no noticeable off flavours. It was fermented warm (around 20C) and under pressure (around 10psi) which certainly worked to suppress any esters and off flavours from developing. We were particularly worried about the warm fermentation termperature imparting some off flavours, but the W34/70 yeast certainly wasn't phased by this, and more than likely having the fermentation happen under pressure helped too.

The yeast profile is very neutral and provides the perfect backdrop for the hallertauer mittelfruh hops to do their thing. As we previously mentioned, there isn't a huge amount of hop flavour, but there is as much as there needs to be to keep the malt and hop flavours in balance. In our opinion the balance is spot on so we'll be keeping this hop schedule as a basis for future recipes.

The malt provides a nice clean, cracker-like platform for the hops - and the overall flavour is very much reminiscent of European lagers.

Conclusion & Changes for Next Time

We plan on entering this beer into an upcoming competition to see how it ranks as an international lager - no one needs to know we actually brewed it to be a cream ale, right? But as we mentioned, the styles have quite a bit of overlap so we're hoping it will do well.

As for changes for next time, the only things we'd change is using a new-world variety of hop, and would also try using a clean fermenting ale yeast like US-05. The base recipe and hop schedule would remain the same.

We were very impressed with the W34/70 yeast and will definitely be using it again. We got a very crisp, clean result and it was turned around just as quickly as a typical ale fermentation - faster actually. The 2 packets of W34/70 finished fermenting in under 2 days! 

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Cream Ale - Recipe (All Grain)

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