History of Kölsch

Starting in the 1840s, Czech’s were brewing the amazingly clear, quality controlled amber, with all the bubbles and Saaz hops that set Bohemian’s, and quickly the world’s, nips a-stiff. German brewers, freaked out by the popularity of the foreign beverage, with its clear look and consistent taste, began to improve their own product. In Munich, borrowing the same British pale ale techniques, began brewing helles lager. In the Rhineland they stuck with ale, and came up with kölsch.

Beer Style

Brewed in Cologne (Köln), Germany, Kölsch is a golden ale brewed first in the late 19th century. The taste is generally subtle, less weight on the palette than even the pilsner for which it was designed to compete against. Brewed like an ale, it is then cold conditioned and lagered around 30-32 °F. The body is light, the taste is clean with minimal pale pilsner malt and mild, crisp noble hop notes. The most common word people use to describe this beer is “refreshing”, which the best are. Kölsch is served in cylindrical 200ml Stange (German for “pole”) glasses.

Stange, the traditional glassware for Kölsch

Kölsch in Stange glassware


How to try

Kölsch now comes with all the cowardly, protectionist legal definitions akin to north-central Italy being the sole location Parmigiano-Reggiano is cultured, or the state of Kentucky’s borders enshrining the only geography from which bourbon can be produced. Unfortunately, beer does not keep as well as cheese or whiskey. Many kölsch ales that end up in the U.S. have been robbed by time of any hop profile. Oxidation can also occur, turning the beer. Try this one fresh in country, right off the boat, or go for a local “Kölsch-style” beer. If you get a fresh one done right, you’ll taste one of the few styles refreshing enough to survive up against the nearly insurmountable coup of lagered beer. Cologne after all, has been saving the ales for 150 years.

Kölsch Beers to Try

Heinrich Reissdorf: Reissdorf Kölsch

Hausbrauerei Päffgen: Päffgen Kölsch

Heinrich Reissdorf: Reissdorf Kölsch

Hausbrauerei Päffgen: Päffgen Kölsch

Goose Island: Summertime

Three Floyds: Calumet Queen

Victory: Kölsch Ale




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