What is a Kölsch?

Photo credit: Wikiwand

Photo credit: Wikiwand

With summer upon us it’s always good to know which beer style goes with which season. Hot summer days lead to cold smooth beers and nothing says summer quite like a kölsch style beer ("Cœllsh" / pronounce the "ö" like a French "œ" as in bœuf).

First brewed in Köln, Germany, this light to medium body, pale hop bitter beer has often been confused with a lager. Developed as the answer to the British pale ale, it has more in common with a German Altbier over a lager; it’s Germany’s only true all-barley pale ale. The other German pale ale is the more familiar wheat beer or Weissbier.

The style gets its slightly fruity flavor from it’s own special ale yeast. Kölsch is warm fermented at around 55 to 70 °F, then conditioned by cold-fermenting and aged, which is also known as lagering, resulting in an average abv between 4-6%.

The word Kölsch originally meant people from the city of Cologne. It can also be used as an adjective meaning something or someone is “Cologne-ish” or as a noun to describe the dialect of someone from Cologne.

The term was first originally used in 1918 to describe a beer that was created in 1906 by Sunner brewery. The style didn’t become popular until the 1960’s as bottom fermented beers were dominate. Springing out of the Cologne beer market, the style slowly gained in popularity and now sees about 240 million liters consumed worldwide from brewerys as Fruh, Gaffel and Reissdorf.

Because of the 1986 Kölsch Konvention, official Kölsch beers may not be brewed outside of the Cologne region. Other breweries my brew a Kölsch-style beer but they aren’t allowed to be called a Kölsch.

Kölsch should be served in a special Kölsch-Stange glass, measuring only six inches tall and two inches in diameter. With this glass it takes almost two and half glasses of Kölsch to measure one British pint, ensuring that your beer never has a chance to get warm on a hot summer day.