What Is a Kölsch Beer and Why Should You Be Drinking One?

Combining the best elements of a lager and an ale, this unique brew is perfect for any occasion.

A Kölsch beer glass

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Kölsch is a refreshing style of beer that stands out for its crisp drinkability and exceptional balance of malt and fruit flavors. But what exactly gives Kölsch beer its unique taste?

Most beers are categorized as either ales or lagers, depending on the type of yeast used during fermentation. Technically speaking, ales are brewed with top-fermenting yeasts at higher temperatures, resulting in bolder and fruitier flavored beers like IPAs. Lagers, on the other hand, are made with bottom-fermenting yeasts at cooler temperatures, leading to crisper, more malt-forward beers like Pilsners. Kölsch beer, however, blurs these lines by using a hybrid brewing technique.

Originating in Cologne, Germany, the Kölsch beer technique requires fermenting with ale yeast, then finishing at cold temperatures, like a lager. The result is a style that exhibits some of the best characteristics of both categories. Kölsch tends to be light and drinkable, often with a touch of subtle fruitiness and spice like an ale but with a crisper, cleaner finish you would expect from a pale lager. These attributes make Kölsch an extremely quaffable style of beer that still has a bit of integrity and is perfect for any occasion.

If you're looking for a place to start exploring the world of Kölsch beer, try the Reissdorf Kölsch from the renowned Heinrich Reissdorf Brewery in the heart of Cologne. Their signature brew is crafted in the traditional style and is one of the bestselling Kölsch beers in the world. Also consider the Gaffel Brewery, which has been brewing exceptional beer since 1908.  Their classic Kölsch is a standout in their lineup.

Of course, American craft brewers have also put their spin on the German Kölsch style. For a traditional take, try Captain Lawrence Brewery's Clearwater Kölsch. Brewed with fresh, local water in New York State, this beer offers a classic Kölsch taste with perfectly balanced malt and citrus notes. For those on the West Coast, try the California Kolsch from the well-established brewery, Ballast Point – a beer so light and drinkable, the brand used to simply label it as a Pale Ale.

For a Kölsch that is a little more far out, consider trying the Honey Kölsch from Rogue Ales. The Oregon-based brewery adds a unique twist to the style by brewing it with honey harvested from bees at their farms. The result is a beer with the drinkability of a traditional Kölsch plus added notes of toast, wildflower, and sweet honey.

Whether you prefer a classic Kölsch or one with a modern twist, this mid-ABV, approachable beer style is sure to please any crowd.

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