Of hybrids and transitions

Everyone who reads my blog knows by now that beer is either an ale or a lager. Right? Ales are fermented warm with a top-feeding yeast strain. Lagers are fermented cool to cold with a bottom-feeding strain. And then there’s that asterisk. There are, in fact, several styles of beer which do not fall neatly into one of the two basic categories. Among those are Steam Beers and Cream Ales. Very generally and broadly described, Steam Beers (aka California Common Ales) are fermented using a lager yeast but at more ale-like temperatures; Cream Ales are often just the opposite, using an ale yeast but at cooler, even cold, fermenting temperatures. Some Cream Ales are reputed to use a blend of ale and lager yeasts. These two hybrids bear some resemblance to Kölsch and Altbier, just to muddy the wort a little further…

We are in that time of year, here in Vermont, where the weather is a bit of a hybrid as well. Cold nights followed by warmer sunny days make it hard to plan the right brew. It is too warm yet to start brewing the lagers that will occupy my winter brew-days, but cold enough to be tempted… Today’s brew session was planned as my last ale, with next week starting off the lagering season. In that spirit, I decided to brew not only a transitional hybrid beer but a hybrid of a hybrid, a variation on a combination of two beer styles. Blending the recipes for a traditional Cream Ale and a clone of Anchor Steam, using both yeasts in tandem, and adding a few ounces of Carafa malt to deepen the color, I present a Red Cream Steam Beer…

Asterix Ale

5 gallons, all-grain


  • 7 lbs. pilsner malt
  • 1/2 lb. 30°L crystal malt
  • 1/2 lb. cara-pils malt
  • 4 ounces Carafa I malt
  • 1 lb. flaked maize
  • 1 oz. Northern Brewer hop pellets (@12.3% aa)
  • 1 oz. Perle hop pellets (@8% aa)
  • Wyeast California Lager yeast (2112)
  • White Labs Cream Ale blend (WLP080)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Procedure: Crush malts. Heat 13 quarts water to 165°F. Mash in crushed grains and maize, hold at 154°F for 60 minutes. Heat another 15 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 26 quarts sweet wort. Bring to a boil. Add 1/2 oz. Northern Brewer hops, boil 30 minutes. Add Perle hops, boil 25 minutes. Add remaining Norther Brewer hops, boil 5 minutes (60 total) and remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading. Pitch both yeast cultures, seal and ferment cool (55 – 60°F) for eight to ten days. Rack to secondary, age cooler (50°F) for ten to twelve days. Prime with corn sugar and bottle. Condition cool (45°F) for ten to twelve days.

OG: 1054

IBU’s: 88