Overview of Kölsch Style Beer


Kölsch is a style of beer brewing originating in Köln, Cologne, Germany. This top-fermented style of brewing goes as far back as the 9th century, and is a process that is closely guarded, as are many other German styles of beer brewing.

Kolsch beer

The method was founded by Kölner Brauer-Kooperation in 1396, and is an entity that is part of the Cologne Brewery Association. As with many Bohemian style lagers, popularity increased by the end of the 1800’s. Cologne brewers began to formalize the brewing style of this sweet, fruity, hoppy beer during the Kölsch Konvention. This kept the importing of Bohemian lagers  from occurring and allowed Kölner Brauer-Kooperation to continue brewing their special pale beer with top-fermenting yeast strains.

Kölsch beer is much like French Champagnes in that products labelled as this product must be from the region. It is distributed mostly in and around Cologne, Germany. Still, the popularity of the pale golden style of beer, which is Germany’s answer to English pale ales, continues to flourish to parts around the world.

International  breweries have made kölsch-style beer, but only beers that are brewed in Cologne according to the Kölsch Konvention can be called kölsch. This beer has to be produced in the Cologne region, must be top-fermented, pale, hoppy, filtered and be a Vollbier between 11 percent and 14 percent plato. It is commonly enjoyed in a glass called a Stange.

The German Beer Purity Law or the Reinheitsgebot in Western Europe makes the original kölsch beer one that holds the largest market share. In the 1960s through the 1980s, kölsch beers and their production grew six and one-half times. This trend began to decline slightly in the 2000s, however with beer aficionados and small craft breweries on the rise, a taste for true Kölsch never seems to face any real downward trend.