In a less-enlightened era of beer consumption, warm weather meant light, watery lagers. Sure, they could refresh, but they left the palate wanting.
Now, thanks to a vast sea of kölsch imports from Germany, along with domestic takes on the style, you no longer have to sacrifice taste for thirst-quenching power. Low in alcohol, but big in flavor, it was literally first brewed for drinking alfresco on warm, sun-dappled days.
This Cologne-born brew earns its status as a superlative warm-season beer by blurring the line between wintertime ales and the lagers of summer.
Kölsch starts as an ale, but is finished like a lager. It’s first fermented at warm temperatures with ale yeasts, which impart a fruity aroma. It then conditions in cool temperatures like a lager, creating a refreshing crispness.
“Kölsch embodies the perfect balance of light maltiness, delicate floral hops and crisp subtle fruit,” says Brock Wagner, founder of Saint Arnold Brewing Company, which makes the kölsch-style Fancy Lawnmower. “It’s a refreshing beer that has a deceptive amount of complexity.”
Given its agreeable nature, kölsch is versatile when it comes to pairing with food. It excels with light fare like salads, ceviches, shellfish and salmon, as well as sausages, grilled chicken and cheeses, like Brie and Camembert.
5 Kölsch-Style Beer to Crack this Spring
High on flavor and humor, Germany’s complex Ottekolong (“Eau de Cologne”) is a traditional take on kölsch, with extra hops and no filtration.
Founded in 1894, Cologne’s Reissdorf specializes in this exceptionally refined, daintily floral kölsch. It’s a standard-bearer.
Mother Earth Brewing Endless River
This golden looker from North Carolina goes down nice and crisp, with a grassy bouquet and a subtly fruity taste. It’s sensational with seafood.
Lightly fruity and cracker-crisp, this Saint Louis-crafted refresher is made using a yeast strain purchased from Gaffel, a top Cologne kölsch brewery.
Captain Lawrence Captain’s Kölsch
Brewed just north of New York City, this clean-drinking, uber-crisp kölsch might be a hamburger’s best friend. You’ll love the bright, lemony aroma and refreshing acidity.