Beer School

What is a Kölsch?

A light style German beer, kölsch are popular for their refreshing and crushable flavour. In this article we’ll cover the essential information you need to know about Kolsch beer from origins, flavour, and suggested food pairings.

What is a Kölsch?

What is a Kölsch Style Beer?

A popular craft beer, the kölsch is a German beer which offers a light and relatively mild flavour.

The kölsch is a great choice for people who like the classic flavours of standard light lagers and it’s a good choice for newcomers entering the world of craft beer who may not enjoy the bolder flavours of sour ales, IPAs or Stouts.

 

Is Kölsch an Ale or a Lager?

Bottom line, kölsch is an ale but it shares similarities with a lager. When brewed, a kölsch beer is made using top-fermenting ale yeasts; however, after the yeast has been activated, the brew is cooled and fermented at a lower temp, which is more how lagers are brewed.

How to Pronounce Kölsch

You might have heard kölsch pronounced, “Coal-Sh” (admittedly, that’s how we said it too), but the correct German pronunciation is more similar to, “K’ool-Sh.” The difference in sound comes from the German pronunciation of an Umlaut – this thing: “ö” which sounds like “oo” or “ue.”

 

About Kölsch – Essential Style Information:

 

Origin of Kölsch:

Koslch come from Cologne (Köln), Germany where it has legal protection of an appellation similar to Berliner Weisse beers from Berlin, Germany and the Trappist ales of Belgium.

What makes a beer a kölsch?

In order for a beer to be considered a true kölsch, it must come from that Cologne region in Germany – it’s actually protected by the Kölsch Konvention (1986),

“The Kölsch Convention was created […] to protect Kölsch as a qualified geographical designation of origin. As a protected geographical indication (PGI), Kölsch also enjoys protection across Europe.” — Cologne Brewery Association

All other imitations or “styles” that emulate a kölsch (including the brewing process, ingredients and flavours) that do not come out of Cologne, Germany are called, “kölsch style beers.”

If you want to know more about German style beers including kölsch, check out the 5-part article series, A Tour of German Beers.

 

Appearance:

A very pale straw-coloured beer with low to light haze.

 

Beer Aroma & Flavour:

Kölsches tend to be light and drinkable, with that crisp, clean finish you that you’d expect from a pale lager. They have a low-to-mild bitterness, low-to-mild alcohol content, and a low malt character with a subtle noble hoppiness in aroma and flavour.

There are a wide variety of versions made, so some kölsch may also have a spicy, fruity, herbal, or even a slight sulfuric aroma. The light and crisp taste make it a very popular summer beer.

 

What Foods Pair Well With Kölsch Beers?

Due to it’s light body and mild flavour, foods should be selected which are not overbearing in flavour. Salads, bread-based dishes, fruit and citrus, light or nutty cheeses, desserts, French fries or other salty appetizer are all a good match.

Avoid smokey or rich flavours which will overpower this light beer. Ultimately though, kölsch go well on their own and pair well with sunny summer days and friends on the patio!

 

How to Serve a Kölsch:

Served lightly chilled (4-7•C) in a tall and narrow 200 mL glass called a Stange.

 

Stange Beer Glasses

Kolsch Serving Glass - Stange
Photo by Solid Ground Brewing

 

Comparable Styles to a Kölsch:

You’ll probably enjoy a kölsch if you like light and crisp flavoured beers such as pale ales, golden lagers or German pilsners.

 

What Are Examples of Popular Kölsch Beers?

 

Try a Kölsch for yourself!

Check out your local craft beer scene and stop by a local brewery in your area.

 

Now that you know your kölsch, brush up on your beer knowledge with our guide to craft beer styles

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