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Kölsch

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Technically, Kölsch is not just a style of beer; it is an appelation, a designation of origin which grants the breweries of Köln (Cologne), Germany, legally protected status within the European Union.

Contents

[edit] History of Kölsch

Beer has been brewed in Cologne since 874. The term Kölsch was officially used for the first time in 1918 to describe the type of beer that had been brewed by the Sünner brewery since 1906. This type of beer developed from the similar, but cloudier Weiss. It never became particularly popular in the first half of the twentieth century, when the most popular beer was bottom-fermented, just as in the rest of Germany. Before World War II, there were over 40 breweries in Cologne, but in the aftermath of the devastations wrought by the war, that number was reduced to two.

In 1946, however, many of the breweries managed to re-establish themselves. During the 1940s and 1950s Kölsch still could not match the sales of bottom-fermented beer, but beginning in the 1960s it rose in popularity and achieved hegemony in the Cologne beer market. From a production of merely 500,000 hectoliters in 1960, Cologne's beer production peaked in 1980, when 3.7 million hectoliters were produced. Due to recent increases in price and changed habits of alcohol consumption, the sale has decreased causing economic hardship for many of the traditional corner bars (Kölschkneipen) and for smaller breweries. In 2005, 2.4 million hectolitres of Kölsch were brewed.

[edit] Types of Kölsch

[edit] Authentic Kölsch

Modern Kölsch is defined by the Kölsch Konvention, signed in March of 1986 by the 24 breweries in and around Kölsch who brew in the traditional Kölsch style. The Konvention defines "Kölsch" as a pale, hop-accented, top-fermented, filtered vollbier. Within these guidelines, the beers tend to be subtly, delicately flavored with a mild fruitiness.

[edit] American "Kölsch"

While true Kölsch is limited to the area around Cologne, in the United States, brewers not bound by European trade laws can and do market beers in the Kölsch style as "Kölsch". For the most part, these beers follow the true Cologne style rather than representing an American "reinterpretation".

[edit] Brewing Kölsch

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[edit] Competition Styles

Both the BJCP and the GABF recognize a Kölsch style that is not limited to beers brewed in Cologne.

[edit] BJCP Style Guidelines

[edit] Kölsch

6C. Kölsch Vital Statistics
BJCP Style Guideline Definition (2004)
IBUs: 20-30 SRM: 3.5-5 OG: 1.044-1.050 FG: 1.007-1.011 ABV: 4.4-5.2
Aroma: Very low to no malt aroma. A pleasant, very subtle fruit aroma from fermentation (apple, cherry or pear) is desirable, but not always present. A low noble hop aroma is optional but not out of place (it is present only in a small minority of authentic versions). Some yeasts may give a slight winy or sulfury character (this characteristic is also optional, but not a fault).
Appearance: Very pale gold to light gold. Authentic versions are filtered to a brilliant clarity. Has a delicate white head that may not persist.
Flavor: Very low to no malt aroma. A pleasant, very subtle fruit aroma from fermentation (apple, cherry or pear) is desirable, but not always present. A low noble hop aroma is optional but not out of place (it is present only in a small minority of authentic versions). Some yeasts may give a slight winy or sulfury character (this characteristic is also optional, but not a fault).
Mouthfeel: Smooth and crisp. Light body, although a few versions may be medium-light. Medium carbonation. Highly attenuated.
Overall Impression: Very low to no malt aroma. A pleasant, very subtle fruit aroma from fermentation (apple, cherry or pear) is desirable, but not always present. A low noble hop aroma is optional but not out of place (it is present only in a small minority of authentic versions). Some yeasts may give a slight winy or sulfury character (this characteristic is also optional, but not a fault).
History: Kölsch is an appellation protected by the Kölsch Konvention, and is restricted to the 20 or so breweries in and around Cologne (Köln). The Konvention simply defines the beer as a "light, highly attenuated, hop-accentuated, clear top-fermenting vollbier." The traditional serving of this beer in the cellars of Cologne is a novel experience. Typically waiters tour the crowded cellars with baskets filled with glasses of beer. Empty glasses are quickly replaced and the waiters simply place an extra tally mark on the customer's coaster for each beer consumed; payment is then for the number of tally marks. The waiters are famously surly and trying to order anything other than Kölsch is unlikely to make you popular.
Comments: Served in a tall, narrow 200ml glass called a "Stange." Each Cologne brewery produces a beer of different character, and each interprets the Konvention slightly differently. Allow for a range of variation within the style when judging. Note that drier versions may seem hoppier or more bitter than the IBU specifications might suggest. Due to its delicate flavor profile, Kölsch tends to have a relatively short shelf-life; older examples can show some oxidation defects. Some Cologne breweries (e.g., Dom, Hellers) are now producing young, unfiltered versions known as Wiess (which should not be entered in this category).
Ingredients: German noble hops (Hallertau, Tettnang, Spalt or Hersbrucker). German pils or pale malt. Attenuative, clean ale yeast. Up to 20% wheat may be used, but this is quite rare in authentic versions. Extremely soft water. Traditionally uses a step mash program, although good results can be obtained using a single rest at 149°F. Fermented at cool ale temperatures (59-65°F, although many Cologne brewers ferment at 70°F) and lager for at least a month.
Commercial Examples: Available in Cologne only: PJ Früh, Hellers, Malzmühle, Paeffgen, Sion, Peters, Dom; import versions available in parts of North America: Reissdorf, Gaffel; US versions: Goose Island Summertime, Crooked River Kölsch, Harpoon Summer Beer, Capitol City Capitol Kölsch

[edit] GABF Style Listings

[edit] German Style Kölsch/Köln Style Kölsch

38. German Style Kölsch/Köln Style Kölsch
GABF Style Listing (2007)
Kölsch is warm fermented and aged at cold temperatures (German ale or alt-style beer). Kölsch is characterized by a golden to straw color and a slightly dry, subtly sweet softness on the palate, yet crisp. Good, dense head retention is desirable. A light fruitiness may be apparent, but is not necessary for this style. Caramel character should not be evident. The body is light to medium-light. This beer has low hop flavor and aroma with medium bitterness. Wheat can be used in brewing this beer. Ale yeast is used for fermentation, though lager yeast is sometimes used in the bottle or final cold conditioning process. Fruity esters should be minimally perceived, if at all. Chill haze should be absent.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.042-1.048 (10.5-12 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.006 1.010 (2-3 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 3.8 -4.2% (4.8-5.3%)
Bitterness (IBU): 18-25
Color SRM (EBC): 4-6 (8-12 EBC)