Thursday, October 25, 2007

Kolsch in Koln

19-23 Oct 2007

We've just spent a weekend in Cologne (or Köln), sampling as much kölsch as possible. As you may know, German beers are all brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot - the purity law that means that German beers, by and large, won't give you a hangover the way that, say, Stella will. This is because German beers, by law, may only contain water, hops and barley. Note that yeast is not mentioned because Louis Pasteur wasn't around in 1516. The really pedantic will note that wheat is not mentioned either, even though Germany produces a lot of that. The crux of the matter is that German beer is (in theory) not polluted by a vast array of chemicals.

Kölsch is the beer of Cologne, and is served very cold, in 200mL test-tube like glasses. Like all civilised drinking experiences, you don't have to rush to the bar every two seconds because the bar staff wander around with large trays of filled glasses. When you've finished a drink, a new one arrives and you end up with another notch on your beer mat. You might think that this is a recipe for a messy night out - but this is not the case. Sitting comfortably, chatting away and not worrying about getting in rounds, you actually end up drinking more slowly and behaving like an adult.

We didn't manage a comprehensive survey of all the kösch available (given that there are something like 40 breweries, that's probably a good thing). Of those we did sample, there was a noticeable difference in weigth and flavour, which suggests that, with a little dedication, most people would be able to find a kölsch they like.

Our first kölsch was the one we liked least. This was from Peters Brauhaus in the Alter Markt. This was a very light beer - it didn't have a lot of flavour or weight, and we were quite disappointed. It also wasn't particularly cold. We moved on to a bar serving Gilden. I think this was my favourite beer: cold, crisp, clean, a bit of weight so you knew you weren't drinking malty water, bubbles and not particularly bitter. Sion was similar to Peters: another very light beer, although we both agreed it was a better drink. Andy's favourite was Gaffel. The Gaffel Haus was probably my favourite bar and we both agreed that Gilden and Gaffel were the outstanding front runners. Our final sample was Früh. This rated behind Gilden and Gaffel but ahead of Peters and Sion. A slightly sweeter beer (and one which is available in the UK, if you feel you need an introduction to kölsch) with plenty of bubbles and flavour, but still a bit light in the mouth.


Beer aside, Köln is lovely city: at this time of year, it's also pretty cold, which means you can fit in sightseeing in the mornings and justify a swift exit to the pub to warm up in the afternoon!

Next up ... I'll be telling you about German bakeries and German sausage (what else!).

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beer that doesn't give you a hangover... fantastic!!
We have a German Market in Nottingham every December and they always have delicious sausages on offer. There is nothing better than sneaking off in your lunch hour for a warming mug of Gluhwein!!

1:50 pm  
Blogger Leigh said...

hi there - nice post, been wanting to get to koln for a while - in the meantime, i can reccommend Kuppers Kolsch - available at North and Sela (well, it was the last time i checked!). Should bring back those memories!

1:09 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

I'm sure that if you drink enough kölsch you probably do get a hangover ... ;) Speaking of German markets - that's a good reminder for people in Leeds, as the Christkindlmarkt usually turns up in Millenium Square in December - with plenty of beer and sausages!

Kuppers was one we missed, Stockton, but funnily enough it was available at the Worth Valley Beer and Music Fesitval (along with Früh!). I'm pretty sure North usually has Früh too - and Beer Ritz on Otley Road should have at least one kölsch in stock!

7:19 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Malz Mühlen - off the beaten track (very genuine with more locals, less tourists although Bill Clinton was there on last visit). Wonderful food & malty kolsch.

All Kolsch is good - it really depends upon ones personal prefernce - Peters was however my favourite!

Must go back there again to have another go (bottled Kolsch is not the same)


12:13 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

Thanks Tim! I've actually got some friends heading to Cologne this weekend so I'll put forward your suggestion!

9:22 pm  

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