Don’t laugh but apparently some people have been asking Anspach & Hobday whether their Cream Ale has lactose in it (as if the inclusion of lactose is some sort of craft beer Reinheitsgebot) — it doesn’t, but, being based on a beer style that was both pre-Prohibition and remains in the repertoire of a few US breweries, it contains flaked corn and oats.
I first read about Cream Ale when Randy Mosher filed his review of Pelican Pub & Brewery’s Kiwanda Cream Ale for the first edition of 1001 Beers. The idea of this single-hop beer with a light colour and body but which Randy still thought good enough to be sampled intrigued me.
Fast forward to 2015 and I’m driving between Seattle and Portland over six days for a travel feature and aiming to get to as many breweries as possible, which is how on a gloomy Monday lunchtime I arrived at Pelican’s Pub right down on the beach at Pacific City in Oregon (city is a bit of a misnomer as from what I saw the place looked the size of a suburb of Rhyl). Naturally, I ordered the Cream Ale, which was light and delicate with a moussec-like mouth feel. It was an excellent beer for lunch and dovetailed magnificently with a plate of fish tacos.
As for Anspach & Hobday’s Cream Ale, I presume it’s the corn that helps to give it a lightness on the palate, while the oats add a smooth mouth feel. There is a floral and citrus nose, while the palate is herbal, delicately fruity and dry in the finish with a ring of bitterness continuing as if a visitor was pressing down insistently on the doorbell.
This is a smooth and soothing beer, with a lot more character than I recall from Pelican’s Cream Ale. One other thing, The Cream Ale is a lightly hazy in appearance, which is a bit ironic as Cream Ale in the 19th century came about because US brewers wanted to emulate the brilliance of the lagers that were sweeping all before them (according to Jeff Alworth in his magnificent Brewery Bible). Next, I’d like to see a pre-Prohibition lager if anyone is interested in making one.