Kölsch (beer)

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A Stange of Kölsch beer.jpg
A Stange of Kölsch in Aachen
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 (German pronunciation: [kœlʃ]) is a beer brewed in Cologne, Germany. It is clear with a bright, straw-yellow hue similar to a standard German pale lager.

Kölsch is warm fermented at around 13 to 21 °C (55 to 70 °F), then conditioned by lagering 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). It has a gravity between 11 and 16 degrees.


Kranz (wreath) of Kölsch

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 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 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.[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.

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.

Being a PGI product, Kölsch beer is strongly linked to the city of Cologne and its inhabitants. Nearly every smaller bar (Kölschkneipe) in the city serves Kölsch beer. The glasses used for Kölsch differ a great deal from other German beer glasses, as they are of a cylinder form and only incorporate 0.2 liters. They are called Stange (de), which translates to bar or rod. This type of glass is owed to the fact that Kölsch gets flat quicker than other beers losing its white crest very quickly, too.

A waiter in Cologne is usually called Köbes (de). Traditionally, waiters wear blue aprons, a white shirt, a dark blue tie and usually carry a leathern wallet around their hips. The Köbes is known for rather rough manners, chatting loudly in Kölsch dialect. Yet the Köbes is well-respected and an institution in Cologne and its culture. It is understood to be offensive in Cologne when a guest asks for Alt beer from Düsseldorf, due to a long-lasting rivalry between both cities. Furthermore, a Köbes keeps on serving Kölsch until the guest places the coaster onto the empty glass. Thanks to the small glasses, the work of a Köbes is associated with lots of walking, despite the Kranz wreath.


Wieß (de) (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.

  • The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, produces a rye-flavored Kölsch-style beer, which they promote under the name of "Canoe Paddler" as a seasonal beer.[4]
  • Long Trail Brewing Company in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont produces a seasonal Kölsch-style beer, which they promote under the name of "Ramble".[5]
  • Saint Arnold Brewing Company in Houston is the oldest microbrewery in Texas and produces a Kölsch-style beer called "Fancy Lawnmower".
  • Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company in Lexington, Kentucky produces a Kölsch-style beer, which won gold for Kölsch-style beer at the Brussels Beer Challenge in December 2013.[6]
  • Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau, Alaska, also makes a summer Kölsch-style ale,[7]
  • In 2015, Samuel Adams Beer made a limited release called "Escape Route", which is an unfiltered Kölsch-style beer.
  • "Gateway" Kölsch-style ale is a flagship beer produced by French Broad Brewery in Asheville, N.C.
  • The Franconia Brewing Company's "The Koelsch" is brewed with two row pale malt, malted wheat, and Munich malt.
  • Saint Louis Brewery in St. Louis, MO, under the Schafly brand, brews a Kölsch-style beer available year round (4.8 ABV).
  • 8 Sail Brewery in the United Kingdom brew a 5.0% ABV Kölsch-style beer called "Sail Away".
  • In 2014, Oddbins released a Kölsch-style beer in collaboration with Compass Brewery in Oxfordshire called "Oddbins No.2".
  • The Free Will Brewing Co. from Perkasie, PA has a Kölsch-style ale called "Community Kölsch" (4.8% ABV).
  • The Great Lakes Brewing Co. from Cleveland, OH has a Kölsch-style ale called "Lawn Seat Kölsch" (4.8% ABV).
  • Land-Grant Brewing Co. from Columbus, OH has an "American-type" Kölsch-style beer called "1862 Ale" (4.9% ABV).[8]
  • The Blue Mountain Brewery Inc., Nelson County, Virginia, produces a Kölsch-style beer called "Kölsch 151" (5.0% ABV), named for Route 151, the so-called "Brew Ridge Trail".
  • Big Boss Brewing Company in Raleigh, NC makes a Kölsch-style ale called "Angry Angel".[9]
  • South Austin Brewery in Austin, TX makes a 5% ABV Kölsch-style ale called "Kol'" beer, a wordplay on Kölsch and cold beer.
  • Beau's All Natural Brewing Company in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, produces an organic Kölsch-style lagered ale, "Beau's Lug-Tread"[10]
  • Big Rock Brewery in Calgary, Alberta produces a 4.6% ABV Kölsch-style ale named "Rhine Stone Cowboy".
  • Steamworks Brewery in Vancouver, British Columbia makes a 4.8% ABV Kölsch-style lagered ale called "Kanadische Kölsch".
  • Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen in Bellingham, WA seasonally makes a traditional 4.5% ABV Kölsch-style beer which has won several Gold and Silver awards at the Great American Beer Festival, and also from the North American Beer Awards and Washington Beer Awards.
  • Ninkasi Brewing Company in Eugene, OR released a seasonal 4.4% ABV Kölsch-style lager in 2015 called "Wünderbier."
  • Crazy Mountain Brewing Company in Edwards, CO produces a 5% ABV Kölsch-style beer called "Scenic Route Kolsch."
  • Elevation Beer Company in Poncha Springs, CO produces a 5% ABV Kölsch-style beer called "8 Second".
  • Karbach Brewing Company in Houston, TX produces a 4.9% ABV Kölsch-style beer called "Love Street".[11]
  • Parkway Brewing Company in Salem, VA produces a 6% ABV Kölsch-style beer called "Majestic Mullet Krispy Kölsch."
  • Zip Line Brewing Company in Lincoln, NE produced 5.4% ABV Kölsch-style beer simply called Zip Line Kölsch.
  • Blackstone Brewing Company in Nashville, TN produces a 4.6% ABV Kölsch-style beer called "Chaser Pale".
  • Saint Benedict's Brew Works on the grounds of the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand, IN produces a Kölsch-style beer called "Sister Mary Kölsch."
  • Sapporo Breweries in Japan produce Migaki Kölsch (Kölsch-style beer)
  • Smuttlabs in Portsmouth, NH produces a Kölsch-style beer called "Kung Fo Hobo"
  • Urban Chestnut Brewing Company in St. Louis, MO produce a 4.9% ABV Kölsch-style beer named "BAP", in honor of the rock band from Köln.
  • Red Branch Cider and Brewing Company in Sunnyvale, CA produces a 4.8% ABV Kölsch-style beer called "Biere de Miel."
  • Phillips Brewing Company in Victoria, BC, Canada produces an excellent 5.0% Kölsch-style beer called "Analogue 78."
  • Mexican Cervecería Minerva, produces a Kölsch-inspired beer, with added wheat malt, called " Minerva Colonial."
  • Worthy Brewing Company in Bend, Oregon, USA produces a 4.5% ABV Easy Day Kolsch German style ale.
  • Jekyll Brewing in Alpharetta, GA produces the 5% ABV Big Creek Kolsch
  • Harpoon Brewery in Boston, MA and Windsor, VT, produces a kölsch-style summer seasonal called "Summer Beer."

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. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ https://landgrantbrewing.com/beer/1862-ale/
  9. ^ http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/15189/43208/
  10. ^ http://beaus.ca/beer/lug-tread/
  11. ^ http://www.karbachbrewing.com/beers/love-street

External links[edit]