The remaining percentage of the malt will be American two-row.
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2021 BJCP 1C - Cream Ale style characteristic ingredients: "American six-row malt, or a combination of six-row and North American two-row. Up to 20% maize in the mash, and up to 20% sugar in the boil. Any variety of hops, often rustic American or Continental. Clean ale yeast, or a mix of ale and lager beer."
Vital statistics: IBU: 8 to 20; SRM: 2 to 5; OG: 1.042 to 1.055
The grain bill should be primarily American two-row, six-row, or pilsner base malts. The example recipes from two sources use half Pilsner and half American two-row for the malt portion of the bill. Corn, rice, or sugar should be a significant percentage, like 20 to 30%. The malt/grain flavor is expected to be very light, a "grainy sweetness." Sugar can help to achieve a lower final gravity.
Corn and rice require a cereal mash procedure to gelatinize properly before adding to the mash. Flaked corn or rice is easier to use. Single step infusion mashes can be on the low side (149F or 65C) to aim for better attenuation. Step mashes may also be useful for achieving a high degree of fermentation and dry final character. Rice hulls may help to prevent stuck sparges.
There are differences of opinion about specialty malts. The style experts feel that these detract from base malt character expected for this style. In contrast, many clone recipes for commercial examples have small amounts of Vienna, Munich, and light crystal-type malts. These are optional. If specialty malts are used, keep it restrained.
The hops are usually American varieties derived from European hops, such as Mount Hood and Liberty (bred from Hallertau). European continental hops are also appropriate choices. High levels bitterness might interfere with achieving a refreshing taste experience.
The fermentation should be clean. Possibilities include American ale, Koelsch, and California lager. Historical examples sometimes used lager yeasts or even mixtures of ale and lager yeasts. White Labs has a special cream ale blend. Lager yeasts that produce good results when fermented at ale temperatures might also work.
Historical examples of this style used six-row malt, corn, and Cluster hops. This style can also be used as a base for experimentation, like a blank canvas for other flavors. Strong mentions a friend who blended cream ale with blackberry mead.
Beer-analytics.com cream ale analysis
Dornbusch, H.D. (2005, March-April). American cream ale: An American "retro" brew. Brew Your Own, 19 - 23.
Strong, G. (2019, October). Cream ale: An American original. Brew Your Own, 26 - 29.
Zainasheff, J. (2011, July-August). Cream ale: Crisp, light, and refreshing. Brew Your Own, 19 - 23.
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