Getting My Noggin Around Kolsch/Altbier

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HenryHill

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I am capitulating to popular demand in that I am considering doing a pseudo kolsch/altbier with altbier yeast, similar to what this guy does. I am a hardcore ale-only brewer and I don't want to lager (I just buy 1/2 bbls of PBR for lawn and pool beer in summer and leave it in the barn frig cobra tap style), but I am curious about making a summer beer for the kids (kids being in late 20's-early 30's), and I remember back to the first site I found when I went to look online at HBing.

Can anybody help me understand the difference between kolsch and altbier, other than yeast? What differences in grain bill make them what they are? :confused:

Bodensatz is about the only place I've found with any info.


Illustrated Beer Brewing Primer - German Pilsner Partial Mash

 

Boerderij_Kabouter

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Don't let any German's from Koelsch hear that :p

Koelsch is litter and crisper, whereas Alt bier has a bit more spice to it and is a bit darker. Koelsch is often replicated in the US. Goose Island makes a good one and Full Circle from New Holland is good as well.
 

Catt22

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IMO, the substantial difference is that the Alt bier grain bill often includes one or more of roasted barley, dark crystal, Munich or Vienna malt while the best Koelsch examples do not with maybe an exception for a very small amount of the Munich or Vienna malts. Also, IMO much of the character of the Koelsch style comes from the Koelsch yeast. In very simple terms, the alts are usually much darker and maltier than a Koelsch. Opinions are certain to vary widely on this topic, so keep in mind that this is only mine and by no means definitive. I do brew some fairly bad ass Koelsch I am told. A good Koelsch is very much a lawnmower/session beer. It's refreshing, crisp and clean, but has only the vaguest resemblance to a PBR. I've been known to down a few PBR's on a hot summer day. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
 
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HenryHill

HenryHill

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IMO, the substantial difference is that the Alt bier grain bill often includes one or more of roasted barley, dark crystal, Munich or Vienna malt while the best Koelsch examples do not with maybe an exception for a very small amount of the Munich or Vienna malts. Also, IMO much of the character of the Koelsch style comes from the Koelsch yeast. In very simple terms, the alts are usually much darker and maltier than a Koelsch. Opinions are certain to vary widely on this topic, so keep in mind that this is only mine and by no means definitive. I do brew some fairly bad ass Koelsch I am told. A good Koelsch is very much a lawnmower/session beer. It's refreshing, crisp and clean, but has only the vaguest resemblance to a PBR. I've been known to down a few PBR's on a hot summer day. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
What yeast do you use? I was surprised to see that kolsch yeasts are only low to mid 70's attenuation....thought that these were dry styles, and attuation would be high 70's to 80% :confused:

'2565 Kolsch. A hybrid of ale and lager characteristics. This strain develops excellent maltiness with subdued fruitiness, and a crisp finish. Ferments well at moderate temperatures. Apparent attenuation: 73-77%. Flocculation: low. Optimum temp: 56°-64° F'
 

Catt22

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Henry,

I'm partial to the Wyeast 2565 mostly because I've had very good results with it. The attenuation has been more than satisfactory. Don't worry about the low flocculation comment in the description. The beer will drop perfectly clear given a sufficient lagering period of at least four weeks and sometimes longer if you have the patience for it. I also don't get nervous about apparent attenuation specifications. I'm convinced that the attenuation has more to do with one's mashing procedures than the yeast itself. Certainly, the yeast labs are the experts and I wouldn't challenge them on the accuracy of their description. My comments are simply from Koelsch being one of my stock beers that always seems to be popular with a wide range of beer drinkers. I think that may be because it is much closer to "regular" beer than some of the other beer that most of us brew such as IPA's that the run of the mill visitor might find difficult to relate to. You know how that goes!
 
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HenryHill

HenryHill

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From Bodensatz:


'Yeast – Most good high-attenuating Ale yeasts can be used to make a decent Kölsch-style beer. Wyeast 2565 is specifically designed for Kölsch-style beer, as is White Labs Kölsch (reportedly from PJ Früh). 1007 German Ale is another good choice, and even 1338 European Ale or Chico 1056 can be used. Basically anything that can ferment very clean at room temperatures – strong esters are verboten in Kölsch – and can attenuate in the 80-85% range. '

Seems like I can use S-05 (dry 1056), if I don't want fruitiness...:confused:

Yeah, catt22, this isn't my beer, really, but something to draw in the BMC little beotches... :D
If I can prove that there is a craft beer that they like, perhaps I won't seem so alien by making beer, and can draw them in to the hobby. One SIL likes craft beers, mostly SA White, Oberon, and IPA'S....
What FG do you typically see for a Kolsch?
 

Catt22

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The FG typically comes in around 1.010 - 1.012. You certainly can use the suggested yeasts, but what appeals to me about a Koelsch yeast is that it doesn't object to lower fermentation temperatures and to me that is what makes for a cleaner beer. Strong esters my be verboten, but IMO some mild ester presence is desirable. Some low level of fruitiness is desirable IMO. Shooting for something extremely clean without some esters seems more like a regular light lager than a Koelsch to me. If you really want to please the masses, try brewing up a Classic American Pilsner. I've had some really good results with my CAP's. They do take some time to make properly. Like three months from brew day to the first sip. Lot's of patience required for lagers like those, but well worth it IMO.
 

DrinksWellWithOthers

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I brewed up a Kolsch this winter and used WLP029 and got about 80% attenuation. OG was 1.048 and FG was 1.009.
 
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HenryHill

HenryHill

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Just not interested in lagering-but the cool fermenting ales, I think I can do. I tend to ferment cool anyway, then condition cold, so it's not a stretch.

Yeah, I can understand the fruitiness, now that you mention it. Low hops and thin wort would be boring without the slight ester, I reckon.
 

blue800

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I tend to ferment cold as I live in a basement (59-65 degrees) and Ive used the German ale yeast (wyeast 1007) for an alt (my best beer yet by far). And I just tasted a kolsch style with Rye last night that is going to be good for summer.

Take home message is that 1007 works well for the cold fermented ales.
 

Saccharomyces

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Alt is like a Kolsch with some roasted malt for color (think Coke or Pepsi color) and is about 2x the hop bitterness. Very hard to find a commercial example, they are rare! An Alt should be low in esters, Wyeast 1007 at 60*F works great, whereas a little more fruity esters say WLP029 at 64*F works nicely for a Kolsch.

Ed's recipe is a typical Kolsch: https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f62/bee-cave-brewery-koelsch-33548/

80% Pils 20% Wheat malt, or 80% Pils 15% Wheat malt 5% light crystal would be a typical grist for a Kolsch. Show it a picture of a hop for 60 minutes. :D Definitely a hit with the BMC crowd.

Flying Dog Golden Ale, St. Arnold's Fancy Lawnmower, Pyramid Curve Ball, Steamworks Colorado Kolsch are commercial examples of Kolsch I've had we can get here in Texas. Southampton Alt (from PA) and (512) Alt (which is a local microbrew just released) are the only commercial Alts I have tried.
 
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