Is It Really Kölsch?

Kölsch bottle solo product shot.png

The Truth

Is in there...

Kölsch, delicious, refreshing, the perfect summer beer, one of the great German styles that have jumped the pond, is suddenly everywhere. Or is it? Is the golden beer pouring now from a thousand taps really Kölsch? On closer inspection, the answer is more often than not a resounding NO!

No surprisingly this being a German style it is highly regulated in our home country. For one, brewers who make it have to be members of the Cologne brewery guild. “Kölsch” literally means “from Cologne” as “Köln” is the German name of that city. It also requires the use of malted barley, sometimes wheat and noble hops from Bavaria. Finally a very specific ale yeast strain that has been cultivated in Cologne for hundreds of years. (That’s as long as this style has been around)

Unfortunately a lot of American Kölsch-brewers give a rodents behind about any of this with the notable exception of the yeast. For the most part they brew fairly plain and unsophisticated (British or American) Pale Ales and then dump some Kölsch yeast in it for fermentation. The weirder ones even flavor it with fruit juice like watermelon. All that is good and fine. If you like to make it, and people like to drink it, congratulations. But please don’t call it Kölsch. It’s a bit like putting a Mercedes starter motor in your old banging Ford and call it a Benz.

For claiming a style its guidelines should not be totally ignored. There is a reason Kölsch is called a “hybrid”-beer in Germany. It is made with an ale-yeast, but exclusively from ingredients and in a manner you would find in a traditional German lager. For Two Coast Kölsch we do exactly that. Barley and a little bit of wheat, a bouquet of the finest noble hops from Bavaria and you get a true-to-style refreshing beverage that native “Kölners” can recognize and agree with.

Roger KunsemuellerComment