Homebrew Beer Recipe: American Cream Ale (All-Grain & Partial Mash)

Homebrewed American Cream AleThe heat of summer, the sting of sweat in your eye, the smell of fresh cut grass. After mowing the lawn, everyone needs a good “lawnmower beer” to cool down! The perfect remedy: an American cream ale.
A cream ale is a very lightly colored ale with low to medium bitterness, a subdued malt character, and a dry finish. After all, you don’t want anything too heavy or bitter after cutting the lawn, you just need something cold with a bit of booze.
To lighten things up, a cream ale beer recipe will often be brewed a small proportion of adjunct grains, typically corn or rice. Flaked rice or flaked corn is an easy way to incorporate those ingredients. Sometimes, the addition of simple sugar as an adjunct can also be used to achieve the dry finish that’s characteristic of this style.
The BJCP Style Guidelines for Cream Ale call for the following specs:

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

The American cream ale beer recipe below uses a majority of American pilsner malt for a light flavor, with a decent proportion of Vienna malt for a little color and a husky flavor. The flaked rice helps contribute a lighter body and a dry finish. Contrary to what the name might suggest, a cream ale has no dairy – the name refers more to the smooth mouthfeel than anything else.
Classic American ale yeast strains work well for this beer style. I’ve chosen Wyeast 1056: American Ale Yeast and Safale US-05 as two options. You may also use a Kolsch yeast or any other clean, neutral, well-attenuating ale yeast that you may have on hand. One key to this style is a cold conditioning period. It’s not absolutely essential, but it will help smooth things out.
I hope you enjoy the American cream ale beer recipe below through the heat of the summer! Look below the all-grain directions for a partial mash variation.
Gringo’s Cream Ale
(5.5-gallon batch, all-grain recipe)
OG: 1.050
FG: 1.011
ABV: 5.1%
IBUs: 18.5
SRM: 4
6 lbs. American pilsner malt
3 lbs. Vienna malt
1 lb. Flaked rice
.5 oz. Cluster hops at :60 (3 AAUs)
.25 oz. Willamette hops at :30 (1.125 AAUs)
.25 oz. Willamette hops at :15 (1.125 AAUs)
1 oz. oz. Willamette hops at :5 (4.5 AAUs)
Wyeast 1056: American Ale Yeast or Safale US-05
If using liquid yeast, prepare a 2L yeast starter. Mash crushed grains at 150˚F for 60 minutes. Sparge to collect seven gallons of wort. Boil for 90 minutes, adding hops according to schedule above. At end of boil, cool wort to 70˚F or below and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Ferment at 65-70˚F for two weeks. If possible, cold condition at 35-40˚F for three weeks. Carbonate to 2.4 vols CO2.
PARTIAL MASH VARIATION: Change the grain bill to 6.6 lbs. Pilsen liquid malt extract, 1 lb. Vienna malt, and 1 lb. flaked rice. Mash the crushed Vienna malt with the flaked rice, strain, then mix in the LME and add water to reach the desired boil volume. If boiling less than five gallons of wort, increase the first hop addition to 1 oz. Cluster hops and top off with clean water to make 5.5 gallons in the fermenter. Proceed as above.
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.