What is a German-Style Kölsch?
A Kolsch, or more properly, Kölsch, is a German-style, light-bodied, medium-carbonated, straw-colored beer that skirts the line between ale and lager.
Originating in Cologne, Germany, (Köln) this style is great traditional beer that will serve you well on a crisp Autumn day. A good Kölsch-style ale will be refreshingly crisp. A great one will achieve malt and hop harmony. An excellent Kölsch will have found the right water source.
Beer and Brewing suggests that Kölsch-style beers were being brewed in the late 9th century. Safe to say the they existed prior to the brewing revolution of the last decade or more in the United States.
Interesting takes on the style can be found in craft brews like Proclamation's Till it Shines, a collaboration with Kent Falls Brewing. They describe their Kölsch as having been, "Brewed with whole leaf Mandarina Bavaria hops, you get aromas of tangerine, subtle fruit notes, and crackers. Slight bitterness rounded out by a beautiful sweetness with malt-forward, citrus, peach, and tangerine notes. Medium carbonation, light-bodied, and 100% refreshing."
The 1986 Kölsch Konvention mandated that Cologne's primary beer family could not be produced elsewhere and still called a Kolsch. Interestingly enough, brewers in the EU must follow this dictated stipulation, but not American craft breweries. Who knew!?
German-Style Kolsch FAQs
What does German-Style Kolsch mean?
Kölsch roughly means, "Of Cologne, Germany", or in this case, "A beer produced in Cologne, Germany"
What does a German-Style Kolsch taste like?
A Kölsch beer tends to taste a bit sweet, due to the malt profile, with hints of fruit aromas. It does not - and should not - taste bitter. Growler Magazine says, "It has low, grainy-sweet malt and spicy hop aroma. Subtle fermentation-derived winey or fruity aromatics may be present, including apple, pear, or sometimes cherry. The flavor largely follows the aroma. Soft, grainy-sweet malt is delicately balanced by moderate to low bitterness and gentle, spicy hop flavors. Those same vinous and fruity flavors may be present."
How is a German-Style Kolsch served?
It's fairly typical for a Kölsch to be served in a Stangen Glass. That Stangen will often arrive to your table by way of a Kranz, a round cupholder capable of transporting 8-12 Stange Glasses at once.
While the delivery in the Kranz is cool, most Stangen Glasses only carry 0.2ml of beer. It feels a bit inefficient to us that you're getting less than half a pint, often. But, that's how this style of beer is traditionally served.
What is the name of the person who serves a Kolsch?
What is the ideal Kolsch?
Gaffel Kolschs are viewed as being excellent. In fact, Wine Enthusiast just rated the Gaffel Kolsch as having the very best German Kolsch; which feels redundant.
As for Kolsch-style beers stateside, we have strong opinions about Schilling Beer Company in Littleton, New Hampshire and the fine work they are doing in bringing this lawnmower pale ale to New Englanders and travelers alike. Littleton might not be the city of Cologne, but it is one of the best small towns in America.
How popular is the Kolsch?
The German-style beer is plenty popular in Europe and the United States. Many brewers offer a Kolsch to keep some lighter fare on the menu. It's not as popular at craft breweries as the IPA though, that's for sure.
Why is it considered a hybrid?
They are commonly thought of as being hybrid beers because they use ale yeast, but also condition cold. So, top-fermented beers, but beers with lager brewing processes.
What kinds of hops and malts go into a Kolsch-style brew?
Hallertauer, Pale malted barley, malted wheat, etc. Noble Hops and pilsner malts. Things of the sort of nature that you'd find in a Brauhaus.
What are some alternatives to order?
We swear we didn't plan the A-B-C of what you see below.
- Blonde ale
- Cream Ale
- Koelsch (Privat-Brauerei Heinrich Reissdorf)
- Kolsch (Brauerei Päffgen)
- Kolsch (Cölner Hofbräu Früh)
- Kolsch (East Rock Brewing Company)
- Kolsch (Sünner)
- Lawnmower (Saint Arnold)
- NÖHO (Progression Brewing Company)
- Orion (Red Barn Brewing)
- Schönfeld (Schilling Beer Company)
Pairs Well With
- Arugula Salad
- Himmel und Erde Bratwurst
- Lemon Meringue Pie
- Wild Salmon
- Stange Glass
- Collins Glass