Stylin’ & Profilin’: What Is A Kolsch?

Stylin’ & Profilin’ is a brief look at different beer styles that will help you learn whether they’re right for you. Ultimately, words can’t truly turn you on to a solid craft beer. You have to smell, taste, and savor each sip to truly discover if it’s one you’ll come back to in the future. But the background info obtained in this post won’t hurt anything either.

What is a Kölsch?

KolschA Kölsch (also spelled Koelsch) is a specialty beer brewed in Germany that presents as clear with a pale, yellow hue, has an element of hoppiness to it although it’s not prominent, and is less bitter than other German pale lagers. It is light to medium in body, with a vineous, or grape-like (from the malts), and dry flavor complete this beer. At first, this style was only brewed in Köln, Germany. Now, many American breweries have put their own spin on this obscure style. The ABV range on a Kölsch style beer is anywhere from 4-6%.

Brewers in Köln, or Cologne, have been brewing beer their own way for centuries. The modern version of the Kölsch style was born from brewer’s needs following World War II, in addition to their desire to return to simpler beers brewed by those who came before them. Köln didn’t begin lager brewing until much later than the rest of Germany, and it wasn’t until the arrival of refrigeration that the style took hold. Therefore, the memories of their fathers’ beers were most prevalent, but using older ale yeast with the more modern methods now available, including refrigeration, the 2nd generation Köln brewers developed what was known as a hybrid beer style.

One of the cooler historic points about the Kölsh style lays in the fact that the way it’s served is almost equally as important as the way it’s brewed. Köbes, or traditional male servers in Köln pubs who donned blue linen aprons, white or blue plain shirts, and a leather money purse, serve the beer in stanges transported in specially-made carriers. The stange is a tall, slender glass that holds 200 mL, or just under 7 oz., of beer. The Köbes were very direct, often perceived as rude. They will only serve Kölsch, so asking for another style of beer would get you nothing but flack. Pretty crazy, considering the world of beer choices that surround us today!

A Kölsch is brewed with the bare minimum of ingredients, those being barley, hops, water and yeast. Colder brewing temperatures give the Kölsch a dry quality while the ale yeast creates fruity and bread-like aromas and broad, sweet flavors. The lagering process keeps these flavors in check and adds the dry quality sets the Kölsch style apart from other ales in its family. The subtle flavors, lower ABV, and traditionally smaller serving sizes make a Kölsch a good session beer.

Looking to pair your Kölsch with food? Your options are pretty broad, but you don’t want to pick something that will overwhelm your beer. Cheese and sausage go very well with this style of brew. The lighter makeup in this style makes it another solid warm weather beers of the world.

As I said earlier, many American breweries have taken this old-world recipe and added their own flair to it. Here’s five American Kölsches to tap into:

  1. Ballast Point Pale Ale: The Original
  2. Samuel Adams Seasonal East-West Kolsch
  3. Rogue Farms Honey Kölsch
  4. Harpoon Brewery Summer Beer
  5. Victory Brewing Company Kölsch Ale

As always, this list is just the tip of the iceberg. Get out there and discover your favorite!



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