Home > Beer Styles > Light Hybrid beer styles
6 - Light Hybrid Beer
6 - Light Hybrid Beer

Light Hybrid beer styles

Prefer a Cream or a Blonde Ale? How do you like it in the can? Can an Appellation apply to beer as well as wine? When is a Hefeweizen really an American Wheat? Read on to find out…

Previously we examined Bock beer styles, in this article we will cover BJCP Category 6, Light Hybrid Beer, which includes the following Beer Styles:

First we will cover the history of the category, then take a look at the specifications of each style highlighting the similarities and differences. We then sample commercial examples of each style.


6 - Light Hybrid Beer
6 – Light Hybrid Beer

Light Hybrid Beers covers a set of styles of lighter ales as opposed to Light Lagers which we covered earlier in this series. Unlike other ales, and somewhat similar to lagers, these beer styles can benefit from cooler fermentation temperature and/or cold conditioning to ensure a beer with low ester flavors being thrown by the yeast and to help produce a cleaner and more rounded beer.

According to the BJCP 2008 Style Guidelines here is a summary of the history of each style:

  • Cream Ale – effectively an ale version of an American Lager originally produced to compete with the lagers brewed in the cooler areas of the US North-East and Mid-West.
  • Blonde Ale – designed as an entry-level Craft Beer.
  • Kölsch – an Appellation restricted to certain breweries in and around the city of Köln (Cologne) in Germany. The Kölsch Konvention defines the beer as a “light, highly attenuated, hop-accentuated, clear top-fermenting Vollbier”.
  • American Wheat or Rye Beer – this is almost a catch-all style for beers brewed with large amounts of malted Wheat or Rye and often use an American Ale or Lager yeast.


According to Jamil Zainasheff in his book, Brewing Classic Styles, these beers should all be light in color with no overwhelming malt or hop flavors.

The following table* shows how the 4 styles of Light Hybrid Beer vary:

Characteristic Cream Ale Blonde Ale Kölsch American Wheat or Rye Beer
Original Gravity: 1.042 – 1.055 1.038 – 1.054 1.044 – 1.050 1.040 – 1.055
Final Gravity: 1.006 – 1.012 1.008 – 1.013 1.007 – 1.011 1.008 – 1.013
ABV (alcohol %): 4.2 – 5.6 3.8 – 5.5 4.4 – 5.2 4.0 – 5.5
IBU’s (bitterness): 15 – 20 15 – 28 20 – 30 15 – 30
SRM (color): 2.5 – 5 3 – 6 3.5 – 5 3 – 6

The above table shows that all four styles have similar starting and finishing gravities as well as alcohol percentages. The bitterness levels are also similar with Cream Ale being the lowest level of IBU’s. Color-wise all four styles are also very light with little variance.

In the following sections we will look in more detail at each of the above Beer Styles.

Cream Ale

Sixpoint Sweet Action
Sixpoint Sweet Action

Commercial examples of this style include Genesee Cream Ale, Little Kings Cream Ale (Hudepohl), Anderson Valley Summer Solstice Cerveza Crema, Sleeman Cream Ale, New Glarus Spotted Cow, and Wisconsin Brewing Whitetail Cream Ale. We had some difficulty finding examples of this beer in Winter as they usually come out in Spring or Summer but we did manage to locate Sixpoint Sweet Action.

Sixpoint Sweet Action has the following characteristics which is within style for alcohol content but too high for bitterness and color:

  • ABV = 5.2%
  • IBU’s = 34 (max for style is 20)
  • SRM = 12 (max for style is 5)

This beer is amber in color with a coarse head that laces on the glass. The citrus dry-hopping is more prevalent in the aroma than the flavor and there is some hop bitterness on the sides of the tongue. Mouth-feel is good for such a light beer and the finish is clean. Although there is a little maltiness in the flavor the sweetness stands out more and is accompanied by moderate carbonation.

The last pour from the can dumped a load of sediment into the glass which clouded the previous clarity. This was disappointing because in a bottle you can see if there is sediment but not in a can. This could be the result of dry-hopping though the beer should be filtered really for a canned beverage.

Typical ingredients used when brewing this style include the following according to the BJCP Style Guidelines:

  • Six-row malted barley or six-row with North American two-row.
  • Adjuncts can include up to 20% flaked maize in the mash, and up to 20% glucose or other sugars in the boil.
  • Soft water.
  • Any variety of hops for bittering and finishing.

Blonde Ale

Finch's Golden Wing
Finch’s Golden Wing

Commercial examples of this style include Pelican Kiwanda Cream Ale, Russian River Aud Blonde, Rogue Oregon Golden Ale, Widmer Blonde Ale, Fuller’s Summer Ale, Hollywood Blonde, and Redhook Blonde. Blonde Ales tend to be more widely available in the Summer but year-round examples do exist and we decided to sample Finch’s Golden Wing and Rivertowne Babbling Blonde.

Finch’s Golden Wing has the following characteristic which is within style for alcohol content:

  • ABV = 5.0%

This beer is yellow/straw in color and has plenty of hop aroma and flavor which suggests the IBU’s are above style though no figures are available to support this. The head disappears quickly and the beer is bitter to taste which lingers. Carbonation is low and the mouth-feel is average. As per the Sixpoint Sweet Action there was also some sediment in the can which clouds the beer when poured.

Rivertowne Babbling Blonde has the following characteristic which is towards the top of the style for alcohol content:

  • ABV = 5.3%
Rivertowne Babbling Blonde
Rivertowne Babbling Blonde

This beer is clear and yellow/straw in color. The head does not last and there is no apparent hop aroma or flavor though the taste is of tropical and passion fruit which may well come from the hops. Mouth-feel is thin with moderate carbonation.

Typical ingredients used when brewing this style include the following according to the BJCP Style Guidelines:

  • Generally all malted barley.
  • Can include up to 25% malted wheat and some sugar adjuncts.
  • Any hop variety.
  • Clean American, lightly fruity English, or Kölsch yeast.
  • May also be made with lager yeast, or cold-conditioned.


Reissdorf Kölsch
Reissdorf Kölsch

Commercial examples of this style from Köln include PJ Früh, Hellers, Malzmühle, Paeffgen, Sion, Peters, and Dom. Exported commercial versions include Gaffel. Non-German commercial examples include Eisenbahn Dourada, Goose Island Summertime, Alaska Summer Ale, Harpoon Summer Beer, New Holland Lucid, Saint Arnold Fancy Lawnmower, Capitol City Capitol Kölsch, and Shiner Kölsch. We decided to sample two German examples; Reissdorf Kölsch and Sünner Kölsch.

Reissdorf Kölsch has the following characteristic which is within style for alcohol content:

  • ABV = 4.8%

This beer is yellow in color, has low hop and malt flavor but is balanced. The carbonation is moderate with a clean finish. The taste is almost lager-like and doesn’t linger.

Sünner Kölsch
Sünner Kölsch

Sünner Kölsch has the following characteristic which is just above style for alcohol content:

  • ABV = 5.3% (max for style is 5.2%)

This beer is yellow in color and the flavor is tangy with some maltiness and lingers a little. The level of carbonation is high.

Typical ingredients and techniques used when brewing this style include the following according to the BJCP Style Guidelines:

  • German Pilsner or Pale malted barley.
  • Up to 20% wheat may be used, but this is quite rare in authentic versions.
  • German noble hops.
  • Attenuative, clean ale yeast i.e. that will ferment out fully.
  • Water varies from extremely soft to moderately hard.
  • Traditionally uses a step mash program, which is where the grain in the Mash Tun is raised through a number of temperatures resting for a period of time at each step. This helps with beer characteristics such as attenuation, clarity, head retention, and mouth-feel.
  • Fermented at cool ale temperatures (59-65 deg F) and lagered for at least a month, although many Cologne brewers ferment at 70 deg F and lager for no more than two weeks.

American Wheat or Rye Beer

Widmer Hefeweizen
Widmer Hefeweizen

Commercial examples of this style include Bell’s Oberon, Harpoon UFO Hefeweizen, Three Floyds Gumballhead, Pyramid Hefe-Weizen, Sierra Nevada Unfiltered Wheat Beer, Anchor Summer Beer, Redhook Sunrye, and Real Ale Full Moon Pale Rye. We decided to sample Widmer Hefeweizen.

Widmer Hefeweizen has the following characteristics which is within style for alcohol content and at the top of the style range for bitterness:

  • ABV = 4.9%
  • IBU’s = 30

This beer pours a thick and long lasting head and is clouded by suspended yeast. There is little aroma and the taste is lager-like with no cloves or banana that you would expect from a beer called ‘Hefeweizen’.

Typical ingredients used when brewing this style include the following according to the BJCP Style Guidelines:

  • Large proportion of malted wheat or malted rye depending on the version being brewed.
  • American or noble hops.
  • Clean American ale yeast, but also can be made as a lager.
  • Note: This does not include Rye IPA’s or Stouts that include Rye.

What next?

Our next article will look at BJCP Category 7, ‘Amber Hybrid Beer‘, where we will examine the three styles making up this category.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, please do not hesitate to contribute to the discussion below.

* Beer Styles’ data is courtesy of BJCP.org.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *