The Cream Ale: Time for Change

The Cream Ale has long been a favourite of the brewery. When we first brewed it back in 2014 it quickly became a go to for all of us. We discovered the style when Wetherspoons began bringing over Six Points beers into the UK, including their Cream Ale, Sweet Action, and were taken with smooth, crisp profile of the beer. We had also recently begun experimenting with Sorachi Ace, the love-it-or-hate-it hop originating from Asia that can bring anything from dill to lemon to coconut to blue cheese to the flavour profile of a beer. We felt that the brighter, fruiter side of the hop would lend itself well to the smooth, crisp, easy drinking nature of a Cream Ale, so began to put a recipe together in earnest.

The resulting beer was great. A good portion of corn kept the beer light and crisp, and the Sorachi gave a soft, but bright fruitiness, expressing all of the positive attributes of the hop that we were after. The Cream Ale went down well, and whilst it wasn’t always to everyone’s taste, it quickly developed a reputation as a unique, but easy drinking beer that performed well at both our tap room and beyond.

As our brewery grew, and we transitioned on to our new, significantly larger brew kit, a lot of attention was given to our recipes to make sure they scaled up well. This process was actually surprisingly easy, and we began noticing significant improvements in both the quality and consistency of our beers. The only one we struggled with was the Cream Ale. Fundamental to the character of the Cream Ale was the smooth body and crisp, clean finish. The beer was designed to have no rough edges with a very gentle, but rounded bitterness. As we brewed through batches on the new kit, we found it incredibly tough to re-capture these characteristics. We seemed to be getting a roughness out of the Sorachi that we had not got before, and the aromas moved significantly away from fruit and towards grassy, herbal and at times, cheesy.

We put a lot of effort into resolving this, including reducing the quantity of hops significantly, both in the kettle and the dry hop (we actually ended up dropping the dry hop all together). We did make improvements, and our more recent batches of the Cream Ale definitely made strides towards to the original flavour profile. In conversations with other brewers, it became clear that the Sorachi Ace available was proving to be problematic. In a conversation about the cream ale with a development brewer from Muntons, he asked ‘so you managed to get hold of some good Sorachi then?!”. 

And then came The Loral’n’Oats Cream Ale. Brewed as a collaboration with The Dukes Head in Highgate, The Loral’n’Oats was a riff on the Cream Ale, showcasing the newly released Loral hop as well as introducing oats into the grain bill. As soon as we packaged and tasted the beer, it took us right back to what The Cream Ale was all about; smooth and balanced with an interesting, unique aroma, but very approachable and drinkable. Brewing this beer accelerated the conversation about a review of the recipe, and that takes us to where we are today.

We have made the difficult decision to drop Sorachi Ace from the recipe, and make a few other tweaks to recapture the original essence of The Cream Ale. Using The Loral’n’Oats recipe as a starting point, our plan is to run through a number of batches before officially re-launching The Cream Ale later in the year. There is even a slight chance that it may find its way into a can.

To this day, I believe we are the only UK brewery to make a Cream Ale as part of a core range. We all believe in the style and are confident that its new iteration will build on the reputation of its predecessor. We may well re-visit Sorachi Ace at some point in the future, but for now we’ll be leaving it in the hop store, making way for the new and improved Cream Ale.