DRAFT PICKS: The Cream of the Crop — Enjoy the voyage

In this week’s review, we take a look at a Cream Ale produced by one of the innovative brewers on the west coast .

Anderson Valley Brewing Company is turning out not only a really good Cream Ale, but a whole list of other fine brews as well.

Cream Ale is an almost exclusively American style beer. In many ways, it is closely related (in style and taste), to some of the lighter lagers, but as it’s name indicates it is ... creamier.

One of the best things about good Cream Ales is that they as sooooooo ... refreshing. The basic ingredients of any beer — the hops and malts — are very well balanced, and mostly muted. There is nothing that pops out and asserts itself in a too aggressive manner.

The ‘trick’ to Cream Ales is that while they are top-fermented — like all ales — they are also conditioned in the same fashion as lagers. This conditioning gives Cream Ales much of the taste character.

This extra stage in the process also gives a good Cream Ale much of the crisper, more refreshing feel.

Most if not all Cream Ales have corn or rice added to the mix to make it a bit lighter — as do most of the ‘industrial’ beers in the U.S.

Arguably one of the best known beers in this style is Genesee Cream Ale. It has been around ... forever.

Other popular Cream Ales include:

• Sweet Action Cream Ale — Sixpoint Brewery

• Portsmouth Carlyle Cream Ale — Portsmouth Brewery

• Redhook Ben Harris Beer — Redhook Ale Brewery

• Dragonmead — New Glarus Brewing Company

• Summer Solstice — Anderson Valley Brewing Company

• Caramel Cream Ale — Due South Brewing Co.

• Gaélique Cream Ale — Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel

And so much more ...

The great thing about Cream Ales is that this style of beer will usually be acceptable to most every guest stopping by the house and expecting the more standard brewed fare.

Cream Ales are generally lighter in ABV — around 5 percent.

They pour a clean to slightly hazy medium yellow, and are mild tasting with little obvious hoppy bitterness at all.

Cream Ales are GREAT beers to have around the house when you finish the mowing. They can be served a little colder than most, and that can be a big plus on a hot day.

The only problem is, explorers sometimes need to really hunt out a good Cream Ale. Many merchants don’t realize this style of ale is a stand-alone product and just kinda bury them with the rest of the stuff.

The more expansive shops will have people who know what you’re talking about and will be ready and willing to point you in the right direction.

Cream Ale is a classic summer time beer. Well worth the investment in a few bottles to have around the house when you want something a little different from the family standard.

And for those just starting out on the beer appreciation journey, Cream Ales are a great way to wean yourself from the American standards and head off into the wide, wide world of GOOD beer.

Enjoy the voyage of exploration.

Morning Glory

Old Dominion Brewing Company

Dover, Del.

Morning Glory is advertised as an Espresso Stout and ‘officially’ categorized as an American Double / Imperial Stout.

If you don’t like coffee, or you don’t like stout ale, I’d give this one a pass. BUT ... I love coffee and I love stout ale, so sipping this beefy ale was nothing short of a real pleasure.

Morning Glory pours an impenetrable black and produces a slight brown head of foam. The aroma doesn’t try to trick you — this is a coffee stout and the espresso and coffee scenting is so obviously dominant we needn’t spend any time whatsoever waffling around trying to find other aroma highlights or tones.

It’s coffee! At first wash, the coffee flavors smack you in the palate. It is delicious, and not just with brewed coffee flavor. Morning Glory is creamy and rich. There are some definite chocolate tones that offer a pretty decent back-up. This brew is quite velvety — almost silky.

For a stout that boasts a 9 percent ABV, there really is very little alcohol heat. While I generally suggest care in chilling stouts, Morning Glory is very, very tasty when well cooled - a bit like my favorite iced coffee recipe, (a super iced coffee with two shots of espresso from Biggby!)

This is a full bodied brew — not for the faint of heart.

Seriously, this may not be the stout with which to be introduced to the genre, but by golly it is one that I will be stocking up on in the future. Delicious, full of malted coffee highlights, expressive, and imaginative. Trouble is at least for the time being, I can only find this in GR — International Beverage on N. Paris, just off 28th Street.

If you get a hold of some, cool it well and settle in for an enjoyable evening experience.

Summer Solstice

Anderson Valley Brewing Co.

Boonville, Calif.

Summer Solstice is a scrumptious Cream Ale that pours a rich coppery color with a quick forming, quickly disappearing head of foam that leaves a little bit of lacing after settling down.

There is an almost sweet aroma, with Summer Solstice releasing an almost honey-like quality to the scenting. It is easy to smell the malted grains and there is a very faint spiciness to this brew.

There also was just a hint of citrus smell — like might come from a touch of orange zest.

With this brew well chilled, the first wash was very refreshing — and quite interesting. Summer Solstice is creamy as becomes it’s categorization.

There is a defined maltiness that I thought wasn’t nearly as noticeable in the scenting. I love the creamy taste and feel of this style.

The honey sniffed out earlier on sure shows up in t he tasting, but not at all overwhelmingly so — not like one would expect in a honey ale or lager.

Certainly not like in a mead.

I could also taste touches of vanilla, which simply highlight the creaminess in my opinion. Summer Solstice is a touch fizzy, but that simply adds to the refreshing quality on a hot, muggy summer day. For the second time in one column, I promise I’ll be picking up a few more of these.

Summer Solstice is another winner from Anderson Valley.