A Kolsch beer (pronounced “koelsch”) is similar to a pilsner in flavor and appearance, but usually has a touch more malt sweetness, a bit less hop bitterness, and some subtle fruit notes picked up from the yeast. It is a clean tasting and light bodied beer. For me, summertime is the best time of year to enjoy a nice cold Kolsch. Its crisp flavor and low ABV make it the perfect beer for a hot day. Perhaps it is the warm weather right now that has inspired me to write this blog entry about a beer that, in my opinion, does not receive the attention that it deserves.
Kolsch gets is name from the city that it is brewed in, Koln, also known as Cologne, Germany. It is a very light colored beer with a SRM as low as 3, and is one of the palest beers brewed in Germany. Kolsch beers are known for their clarity and bright blonde color. As far as bitterness goes, Kolsch beers typically come in at right around 20-30 IBU’s delivering a moderate and not overpowering hop flavor. The typical alcohol by volume for a Kolsch is between 4% and 5.25%.
One of the characteristics that makes Kolsch beers so unique is that they are fermented with a Kolsch-style top fermenting ale yeast, such as Wyeast 2565, at a temperature of about 60F, as opposed to with a bottom fermenting lager yeast. After primary fermentation has concluded, the beer is then cold lagered at approximately 40F for several weeks until it has fully cleared and conditioned.
Also interestingly, Kolsch has a geographical appellation. The Kolsch appellation became recognized by German law in 1997 and only approximately 20 breweries located in and around Cologne may legally claim their beers as a Kolsch. Breweries outside of Cologne who brew Kolsch beers are to refer to the beer as a Kolsch style beer as opposed to an actual Kolsch since the name implies it was brewed in Cologne. The appellation works very similarly to champagne and the Champagne region of France.
If you are interested in brewing an all grain batch of Kolsch style beer, here is a great home brewing Kolsch recipe: Click Here for the Kolsch Beer Recipe
A photo of a Kolsch Beer