Sometimes We Just Stay Home and Drink #19: Black Cap Cream Ale, Red Lion, Pa.
Date: June 18 , 2019 —
The Story— Yesterday in telling the story of a gold ale masquerading as a cream ale we mentioned that the more than 100 cream ales we’ve tasted, as a group, probably rate lower than any other style we’ve sampled. (We thought that maybe Gose would score lower, but, although the average Gose score has dropped sharply in the last couple of years, the average of the 62 we’ve tried is significantly higher than that of cream ale. Breweries use cream ales as “entry” beers for people who want Budweiser thinking that will put them on a path to appreciation of craft beer. We think giving people a dull flavorless often cloudy yellowness to try to shift them away from a dull flavorless clear yellowness is a very poor idea. Lots of breweries do this with alleged kolsch (sic) beers with similarly poor results.*
We also noted, however, that a handful of cream ales broke out of the pack– usually by breaking the guidelines for the style. These beers, like yesterday’s gold ale, are easy to drink but with a far better hop balance than the average.
We’ll start a short series of very good cream ale with one you can’t have. The brewer is closed, the kettles and tanks have been sold and the brewer isn’t brewing anymore, but it’s worth remembering as an example of that the style can be. Black Cap’s Cream Ale is our top rated cream ale of all time.
We categorize breweries as “destination” “highly professional” “professional” and “enthusiast”. The latter category is intended as descriptive not judgmental, but a brewery with a well educated or highly experienced head brewer is simply less likely to get surprises from his serving tanks than a home brewer trying to upscale his award winning recipes. Black Cap was an enthusiast brewery, but with mostly really happy surprises. We loved the place, we loved the people, and we loved the beer. We still mourn its passing.
The Beer– Balanced if slightly husky true cream ale. The noble hops show as grassy, but balance very well. Like most of the above average cream ales in our data base, it shows more hops than the milk-toast entry beers that appropriate the style name.
Value — Very good (and very irrelevant.) Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.
*We recognize that if a group of six drinkers has five craft fans and one bud-lover, it’s got to offer something that the budlover can stand in order to get the other five to visit its taproom. But really, isn’t it just enough to offer the blueberry banana milkshake heller bock? A handful of breweries–at least where it’s legal– throw in the brewing towel and put Miller Lite on tap. Snce Miller can make a better flavorless beer than they can, they’re smart to do so.
Sometimes we just stay home and drink beer — hundreds of them over the course of the year as we hunt for a new favorite. The searching for the beer of the day never stops, so for a while, there will be fewer travel-oriented posts and just some to-the-point descriptions of beers we’ve enjoyed.
We’re often asked to share our tasting notes on over 33,000 beers; this blog is in answer to those requests. Not all our notes, though. The great beer writer Michael Jackson admirably followed the Thumper Rule, and we’ll try to do the same. (“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”) All the beers we post are from the top half of our ratings and most are from the top quarter. Of greater value, we think, are the stories behind the beers, and we try to give you enough about the brewery, the style and the places to find great beer to help you on your own beer journeys. At CulturAle Press we try to write books and publish posts that will help you “Drink Well and Travel Safely.”