What is a Kölsch you ask? The day has been going on for hours it feels like. It’s too hot outside or it’s too cold. You’ve walked up and down the Rhein, climbed the Cologne Cathedral, took a boat ride, eaten too much chocolate at the Chocolate Museum, and seen enough art for a lifetime and by God, you just want a good German beer. Lucky for you, there are is a Brauhaus at every corner. Finally some relief at the end of the day! You stumble in and can’t wait for a typical, big, German, mug of beer. Nothing less than a pint of it!
To your dismay, as soon as you sit, over comes a waiter who gives you less than the time of day. Not only that, he drops a tiny glass in front of you that seems child-sized. This is not what you know from movies like Eurotrip! What is this strange beverage in front of you? What is a Kölsch, the lifeblood of the people in Cologne?
We’re here to answer that question before you have a panic attack! Don’t worry the beer is supposed to be that small. Also it is typically German, but just not the Bavarian style you may have expected. And while it is tiny, don’t worry, there is always more where that came from.
So to begin, let’s answer the main question: What is a Kölsch?
Kölsch is a top fermented Pilsner-style beer. It finds its origins in Cologne, dating back to the early 20th century and maybe even earlier than that. The beer itself is a light and refreshing one, clear and golden-yellow in appearance. It is easy to drink with a percentage usually somewhere between 4-5%.
What makes Kölsch so special in Cologne?
Well, it comes from Cologne. The beer originated here! And like Champagne and Parmesan, the name is a geographic indicator meaning Kölsch can only brewed in Cologne. (This is somewhat limited to the European Union as you may see it outside of the EU although it is often called “Kölsch-style beer”).
This comes from the Kölsch Convention of 1986 when the most important brewers got together and more or less decided that Kölsch can only come from here. Surprisingly, everyone listened and if you brew a Kölsch elsewhere, you can face legal penalties.
Ok, by why the tiny glasses?
No need to be jealous of the bigger glasses, it’s what you do with the glass that matters! The name for our type of glass is called Stange, stick in German more or less. This glass is pretty unique to Cologne and one of our most popular souvenirs. The reason for the size and shape is the beer that goes inside. The style of brewing required for Kölsch does not lead to much carbonisation meaning the beer can go flat in a hurry. That means you should have less to drink in general to make sure you avoid flat Kölsch! That is not a great thing to drink, especially if you’re drink it from a pint or god-forbid a litre…
Added benefits include that the beer usually remains nice and cool! More importantly, leads to the ways we cheer: Always from the bottom of the glass and in Germany, always with eye contact!
Is that all I need to know?
NO! But don’t worry. We have a beer tour you can book to find out the rest!