A glass of Kölsch served in the traditional "Stange" glass
|Country of origin||Germany|
|Alcohol by volume||4.4%–5.2%|
|Malt percentage||usually 100%|
Kölsch is warm fermented at around 13 to 21 °C (55 to 70 °F), then conditioned by lagering at cold temperatures. 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. It has a gravity between 11 and 16 degrees Plato (specific gravity 1.044 to 1.065).
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 more than forty breweries; this number was reduced to two in the devastation and its aftermath.
In 1946, many of the breweries managed to re-establish themselves. In 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 liters.
Thirteen breweries produce Kölsch in and around Cologne, anchored by Früh, Gaffel, Reissdorf and Kölner Verbund. There are also smaller brewers, such as Mühlen-Kölsch or Bischoff-Kölsch. In adherence to the Kölsch Konvention 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 are not allowed to 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. Exports of Kölsch to the United States, Russia, China and Brazil are increasing. Exported Kölsch does not need to strictly comply with the Provisional German Beer Law, the current implementation of the Reinheitsgebot.
|Brewery||Established||Annual output in hectolitres|
|Gaffel Becker & Co||1908||500,000|
|Cölner Hofbräu Früh||1904||440,000|
As noted above, in Europe Kölsch is a product which has a protected geographical indication (PGI) per EU law. Such beer must be brewed according to specific rules, and within a 50 km zone around Cologne, Germany. Outside of Europe, where EU law has no jurisdictions, many small breweries produce a hybrid ale lagered at low temperatures and subsequently called "kolsch".
- Knupp beer (Kölsches Knupp, Kölnisches Knupp, Kuletschbier), another type of beer of Colognian origin
- Cream ale
- Beer in Germany
- Ray Daniels, Designing Great Beers (Boulder, Colorado: Brewers Publications, 1996), 127-8 and 136-9.
- Bolsover, Catherine (1 October 2011). "Cologne's favorite beer, Kölsch, makes new friends abroad". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
- "Alles über das Kölner Bier". Michael Berger. Retrieved 2014-02-09. (in German)
- Kölsch-Konvention (in German)
- Website of the Deutscher Brauer-Bund e. V. (in German)
- Brauhaustouren in Köln (in German)
- Kölsch - German Beer Institute (in English)
- Frankfurter Allgemeine Article on the Work of a Köbes (in German)