Kölsch (beer)

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Kranz Koelsch.jpg
A Kranz (wreath) of Kölsch beer.
Country of origin Germany
Yeast type Top-fermenting
Alcohol by volume 4.4% - 5.2%
Color (SRM) 3.5 - 5
Bitterness (IBU) 20-30
Original Gravity 1.044 – 1.050
Final Gravity 1.007 – 1.011
Malt percentage usually 100%

Kölsch is a local specialty beer brewed in Cologne (Köln), Germany. It is clear with a bright, straw-yellow hue, has a prominent but not extreme hoppiness, and is less bitter than the standard German pale lager.

Kölsch is warm fermented at around 13 to 21 °C (55 to 70 °F), then lagered, or conditioned at cold temperatures.[1] This style of fermentation links Kölsch with some other central northern European beers such as the Altbiers of western Germany and the Netherlands.

Kölsch is defined by an agreement between members of the Cologne Brewery Association known as the Kölsch-Konvention (de). In practice almost all Kölsch brands have a very similar gravity midway between 11 and 16 degrees.


In 1396 the Brewer Gaffel and twenty-one other guilds signed the Kölner Verbundbrief setting up a new democratic constitution for the free city of Cologne. It terminated noble rule over the citizens and held until 1796, when Cologne was conquered by the army of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The term Kölsch was first officially used in 1918 to describe the beer that had been brewed by the Sünner brewery since 1906. It was developed from the similar but cloudier variant Wieß (for "white" in the Kölsch dialect). It never became particularly popular in the first half of the twentieth century, when bottom-fermented beers prevailed as in the rest of Germany. Prior to World War II Cologne had over 40 breweries, reduced to two in the devastation and its aftermath.

In 1946 many of the breweries managed to re-establish themselves. During the 1940s and 1950s Kölsch still could not match the sales of bottom-fermented beer, but in the 1960s it began to rise in popularity in the Cologne beer market. From a production of merely 50 million liters in 1960, Cologne's beer production peaked at 370 million liters in 1980. Recent price increases and changing drinking habits have caused economic hardship for many of the traditional corner bars (Kölschkneipen) and smaller breweries. By 2005 output had declined to 240 million litres.

Thirteen breweries produce Kölsch in and around Cologne, anchored by Früh, Gaffel, Reissdorf and Kölner Verbund (de). There are also smaller brewers, such as Mühlen-Kölsch or Bischoff-Kölsch (de). In adherence to the Kölsch-Konvention (de) of 1986 Kölsch may not be brewed outside the Cologne region. A few outlying breweries were grandfathered. About ten other breweries in Germany produce beer in Kölsch style, but do not call it Kölsch because they are not members of the convention.

In 1997 Kölsch became a product with protected geographical indication (PGI), expanding protection to the entire EU and several countries beyond it.[2] Exports of Kölsch to the United States, Russia, China and Brazil are increasing.[3] Exported Kölsch does not need to strictly comply with the Provisional German Beer Law, the current implementation of the Reinheitsgebot.

Microbreweries which brew Kölsch-style beer operate in numerous American locations, including New York, Chicago, Boston, Houston, Charleston, Philadelphia, Huntsville, Alabama, Saint Louis, Missouri, San Diego, California, Houston, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, Orono, Maine, Lincoln, Nebraska, Portland, Oregon,[3] Denver, Colorado, Wake Forest, North Carolina, and Tempe, Arizona.

8 Sail Brewery in the United Kingdom also brew a 5.0% ABV Kölsch-style beer called 'Sail Away', and on 8 May 2014 Oddbins released a Kölsch-style beer in collaboration with Compass Brewery in Oxfordshire called "Oddbins No.2".

Brewery Established Annual output in hectolitres
Heinrich Reissdorf 1894 650,000
Gaffel Becker & Co 1908 500,000
Cölner Hofbräu Früh 1904 440,000


A Stange (rod) of Kölsch beer.


Wieß (transliterated as Wiess pronounced [ⱱiːs], for "white" in the Kölsch language) is a cloudy, unfiltered version of Kölsch. It had virtually disappeared from the market during most of the 20th century, but has seen a small resurgence in recent years.

Outside Germany[edit]

Kölsch is a product with protected geographical indication (PGI) per EU law.[2] The Kölsch-Konvention (de) specifically defines the rules to be followed to allow a beer to carry the name Kölsch, which includes that it must be brewed within a 50 km zone around Cologne, Germany.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ray Daniels, Designing Great Beers (Boulder, Colorado: Brewers Publications, 1996), 127-8 and 136-9.
  2. ^ a b http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:1997:322:0033:0035:DE:PDF
  3. ^ a b Bolsover, Catherine (1 October 2011). "Cologne's favorite beer, Kölsch, makes new friends abroad". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 1 October 2011. 
  4. ^ http://leinie.com/Beers.aspx#canoepaddler
  5. ^ "Please Verify Your Age - Long Trail". longtrail.com. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  6. ^ "Awarded beers". brusselsbeerchallenge.com. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  7. ^ Administrator. "Alaskan Brewing Company - Summer Ale". alaskanbeer.com. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 

External links[edit]