What is the difference between a beer and a cream ale?

Answered by Jeremy Urbaniak

The difference between a regular beer and a cream ale lies in their brewing process and ingredients. Let’s dive into the details!

1. Brewing Process:
– Beers, in general, can be categorized into two main types: ales and lagers. Ales are typically fermented at warmer temperatures (around 15-24°C or 59-75°F), while lagers are fermented at colder temperatures (around 7-13°C or 45-55°F).
– Cream ales, on the other hand, are a hybrid style that combines elements of both ales and lagers. They are brewed with a lager yeast strain, but often fermented at warmer temperatures like ales. This allows for a quicker fermentation process compared to traditional lagers.
– After fermentation, cream ales are then conditioned at colder temperatures (around 0-7°C or 32-45°F) for a period of time, similar to lagers. This conditioning process helps to enhance the flavors and create a smooth, clean finish.

2. Ingredients:
– Cream ales typically use a combination of malted barley and adjunct grains, such as corn or rice, to create a light and crisp body. This adds a subtle sweetness and helps to lighten the overall flavor profile.
– Hops are used for bitterness, flavor, and aroma in both regular beers and cream ales. However, cream ales tend to have a milder hop character, often with a slightly spicy or floral note.
– Yeast plays a crucial role in the fermentation process. As mentioned earlier, cream ales utilize a lager yeast strain, which tends to produce a cleaner and crisper flavor profile compared to ale yeast. This contributes to the smoothness and drinkability of cream ales.

3. Flavor Profile:
– Regular beers can come in a wide range of styles, each with its own unique flavor profile. From light and refreshing pilsners to robust and malty stouts, the possibilities are endless.
– Cream ales, however, are known for their light-bodied and easy-drinking nature. They often have a slightly sweet maltiness with subtle corn or rice flavors. The use of lager yeast adds a clean and crisp character, while the conditioning process imparts a smooth and creamy mouthfeel, hence the name “cream ale.”

To summarize, the main differences between a regular beer and a cream ale lie in the brewing process, ingredients, and flavor profile. Cream ales are a hybrid style that combines the use of lager yeast with warm fermentation and cold conditioning, resulting in a light, crisp, and creamy beer that is highly drinkable.