Don't Go Kölsch Tasting in Cologne Until You've Read This!
Prost! Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about beer - the famous Kölsch of Cologne, to be exact. How to drink it. In which vessel to drink it. The best food to complement it. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to lift a glass with the most local of locals in any pub in town.
First, a short history lesson. Kölsch - the name and the beer - is exclusive to Cologne. Twenty-four breweries in the city came together in 1986 (at the Kölsch Konvention, of course!) to discuss what a Kölsch beer should be like. They decided on the following attributes: filtered, pale, top-fermented and hop-accentuated. They determined it should be brewed between 11 and 14 degrees Plato (which determines the density of beer wort). And … the brewmasters determined it illegal to brew Kölsch outside of Cologne.
When you've had enough, cover your glass or it will be quickly refilled!
Ready to knock back a refreshing Kölsch? Let’s start with where. Grab a seat in a lively brewhouse, typically a large open room with ample table seating. The kobe (waiter) replaces your typical bartender, arriving at each table with their kranz (crown). This round tray has a handle and slots for glasses. When you order a beer, the kobe will give you a tally mark on your coaster. Had enough? Put your hand or coaster over your glass.
At whatever brewpub you choose in Cologne, your beer will be served in an identical manner. During the Konvention, it was determined that the brew should be served at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit in a tall, narrow, 0.2-liter glass to ensure that one drinks it before it gets warm. The glass, called a stange, is so vital to the enjoyment of Kölsch, that friends have been known to bring extras along in case a pal arrives at the bar empty-handed. Perhaps the best part about the stange? Every time a waiter spots an empty one, they’ll fill it up!
Kölsch beer is often served with traditional potato pancakes and applesauce.
Now, what should you eat alongside your tasty Kölsch? The traditional favorite is potato pancakes and applesauce. The crispy hot pancake and cold, sweet apple will instantly whisk you back to Grandma’s house. A few other favorites: Bavarian soft pretzels, Bratwurst, Wiener Schnitzel, beer-braised brisket or even doughnuts.
Here are a few of the most beloved brewpubs in Cologne, any of which are the perfect spot for your first Kölsch tasting!
Früh Am Dom, right next to the Dom cathedral and known for its light, fruity Kölsch
Gaffel Am Dom, serving the hoppiest of the Kölsch you’ll drink in town
Brauerei Zur Malzmühle, about 10 minutes from the central Altstadt
Päffgen, where the beer is poured from traditional wooden barrels and tastes different every time
Ready to try this most German of beers? Let’s chat about how we can get you to Cologne on a glorious river cruise. Reach out by booking a consultation through my Services page.