What to expect from… a Kölsch

Kölsch is a bit of an inbetweener. It’s an ale that thinks its a lager – or maybe that’s the other way around. Expect brilliant clarity, a golden colour and a creamy white head. So far so lager, right? But when you smell it you should find some fruitiness there. It’s brewed with an ale yeast and has the characteristic esters to match, albeit in a subtle way. You may pick up a little noble hop character on the aroma but it shouldn’t be too pronounced.

The flavour is crisp, clean and again subtly fruity with a drying finish and very little bitterness. It can sometimes have a creaminess to it that’s very pleasing. It’s an excellent, refreshing session beer. The BJCP 2015 guidelines have this to say:

“Soft, rounded palate comprised of a delicate flavor
balance between soft yet attenuated malt, an almost
imperceptible fruity sweetness from fermentation, and a
medium-low to medium bitterness with a delicate dryness and
slight crispness in the finish (but no harsh aftertaste).”

If it’s not from Cologne (Köln) then it’s not officially Kölsch – although some breweries in the USA are apparently not too bothered about this ruling. Kölsch is traditionally served in a narrow 200ml glass called a Stange (literally a ‘stick’). You don’t order it, as such; you go into the bar and the bring you the beer, and keep on bringing it until you signal that you’ve had enough. This can be fun when you’re trying to work out exactly what that signal is…

Beers to try in this style: Früh Kölsch (Ratebeer | Untappd), Gaffel Kölsch (Ratebeer | Untappd), Reissdorf Kölsch (Ratebeer | Untappd)

Image by Jason Mrachina used under a Creative Commons licence.

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