How to Brew Vanilla Cream Ale

A vanilla cream ale is a perfect brew for your next summer bash. It’s reminiscent of cream soda and so easy to drink. Cream ales are one of those unique beer styles somewhere in between or even some kind of hybrid. They originated during pre-prohibition times in the US as a response to the ever-popular European lagers. It was at one time one of the most popular beers in the US. Over time it’s fallen out of fashion and it’s a bit harder to find.

There are a few key characteristics to a great cream ale. First is dry crip and refreshing finish by having a well-attenuated beer. And second is fermenting it cold to minimize any esters. Cream ales are like the American version of culture in some ways. An ale fermented cold but with a distinction being that creamy. They often use some kind of adjunct either rice or corn to give it a lighter flavor profile.

If you’re into ales maybe this one can be your next one How to brew Watermelon Wheat Ale.

A glass of cream ale with a mountain range in the background.

The Recipe

For this recipe, we are making a 5-gallon batch using the Brew in a bag method. To start heat up 6 gallons of water to about 156 F. Once the water is heated up we add the brew bag and the grains.

The malt bill

  • 74% Pilsner Malt
  • 11% Flaked Corn
  • 9% Acid Malt
  • 3% Carapils
  • 3% Honey Malt

We plan to mash at 151 F for 45 minutes. After the mash, it’s time to pull the grains and squeeze the bag. We take a gallon of warm water and rinse the grains. Once the grains are out of the way we bring the wort to boil for 45 minutes. Since we are using a lot of pilsners and some flaked corn we will boil for 35 minutes to help drive some of that DMS.

Vanilla beans with vanilla flower on a wooden table.

The Fermentation and adding Vanilla

After boiling for a while with 20 minutes left we add 0.5 oz of Warrior hops. It’s a clean bittering hop with a fairly low noticeable flavor. In the last 5 minutes of the boil, we add some more nutrients. The malt bill is fairly light and we want to be sure that yeast has everything they need for a healthy fermentation. And this will also limit any possible off-flavors.

Once the wort is cooled down to 65 F we transfer it into a fermenter. You can get creative with yeast strains. Go for whatever you like as long it’s clean fermenting and attenuates well. We give the fermenter a good shake and then set it in a fermentation bucket with some ice packs to ferment at 65 F for 7 days.

After 7 days of total fermentation, airlock activity has slowed down. We ram the temperature up for few degrees for a diacetyl rest. A few days later we officially have a beer. An important factor to cream ale is a period of cold conditioning or lagering to get the crystal clear brew. Before transferring to a keg it’s time to add vanilla to bring the cream soda flavor. If you want you can use real vanilla beans.

To keep things simple we use high-quality vanilla extract, 3 oz for a 5-gallon batch. We purge the keg with CO2 to minimize oxidation and transfer the beer. Once it was all in we set the psi to 10 and let it sit for a week. After one week it was ready to drink. Cheers.

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