Stylin’ & Profilin’: What Is a Cream Ale?

Stylin’ & Profilin’ is a brief look at different beer styles that will help you learn whether they’re right for you. Ultimately, words can’t truly turn you on to a solid craft beer. You have to smell, taste, and savor each sip to truly discover if it’s one you’ll come back to in the future. But the background info obtained in this post won’t hurt anything either. In addition, Stylin’ & Profilin’ takes a glance at various elements of craft beer culture to further enhance your knowledge and know-how!

What is a Cream Ale?

genesee cream aleWhen I was a kid, I used to hear my dad, uncle, and cousins talk about Genesee Cream Ale. Without really asking them about it because why should a little kid care about beer (it’s not like he’ll write about it as an adult), I honestly thought it was a very specific kind of cream soda…which was probably my favorite of all the sodas. When I learned it was beer, I wondered why anyone would want to drink a beer with cream in it. When I tasted it several years later, I wished it was the cream soda I thought it was when I was younger. It wasn’t for me.

As I’ve grown older and discovered more beers in this style, I’ve come to know the Cream Ale as a very easy-drinking beer…the kind you give your buddy who “doesn’t like all those hoppy craft things you always try to make me drink.” When made with TLC, it’s a style I can enjoy when beer is the only beverage that will do (which is often) and I’d like to operate heavy machinery later.

Cream Ales were born from the American light lager style and are brewed as an ale, but sometimes are finished with a lager yeast. Macro cream ales contain the typical adjuncts of corn or rice to lighten the body and, as many craft brewers and drinkers will proclaim, decimate the flavor. However, smaller craft brewers who’ve resurrected this style have done so by brewing all-malt Cream Ales with low hop bittering…just enough to provide a small amount of hop aroma. However, some brewers have rewritten the playbook even more by putting their own twist on the style and giving it more of a hop character.  Cream Ales typically display a pale straw to pale gold color and are well-carbonated.

If you’re into big beers with high ABVs, Cream Ales will miss your wheelhouse. As I mentioned earlier, Cream Ales are very light and easy-drinking, typically weighing in around 5% alcohol by volume. In a beer world that’s currently invested heavily in Session IPAs (and for good reason), the Cream Ale is the perfect substitute for those less-inclined to climb aboard the hop train. Session beers are all the rage due to lower ABV allowing for more consumption without the fall-all-over-yourself inebriation, and Cream Ales serve the similar function of allowing you to enjoy something easy to drink without having to sacrifice quality and taste.

Mowing the lawn? Cream Ales are a great accompaniment.

Day-long BBQ? Yep, Cream it up.

Shower beer? Sure, grab a Cream Ale!

When you look at the list of beers classified as Cream Ales, some of them may surprise you. For example, when I discovered Anderson Valley Winter Solstice many years ago, I drank the hell out of it for an entire winter. It was only natural that I put a stranglehold on its warm-weather brethren, Summer Solstice. And while it serves as one of those great summer brews to help you beat the heat, I never realized it was classified as a Cream Ale.

Below is a list courtesy of Beer Advocate of some available Cream Ales so you can do some research and find the one for you:

List of Cream Ales

If you can get your hands on a Cream Ale of the craft variety, you’ll undoubtedly discover a light, smooth, easy drinker. If you’ve stumbled across this article and are in that transition phase from macro beers to craft, a well-made Cream Ale is a great style to bridge the gap and help you retrain your palate for quality beer consumption. You may even discover this style will serve as your go-to when you’re looking to kick a few back while keeping things on the low-ABV side.

And, of course, if you’re already acclimated to the craft, get that lawn mowed and crack open a Cream Ale to celebrate!






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