One of the palest of German beers, Kolsch is the traditional local brew of the city of Cologne, and, in a country that is dominated by lagers, many would consider the Kolsch to be the only true German all-barley pale ale. For those who are visiting Cologne and really want to enjoy the authentic Kolsch experience, here is all you need to know.
What Does Kolsch Taste Like?
Just like with every type of beer out there, or even every type of alcohol, there are multiple different interpretations when it comes to the taste of Kolsch. Various flavors are more prominent in different types of Kolsch, but these will all be incredibly subtle, so it does take a certain type of refined palette in order to differentiate between these. Some of the flavors that you can expect to find in a Kolsch include apple, cherry and pear, and these will also be evident in the beer’s aroma. Slight notes of bitterness are also to be expected, but these do not leave a harsh after-taste, making the Kolsch an extremely clean drinking beer.
Different Types of Kolsch
As mentioned above, there are many different types of Kolsch to be found in Cologne. The Paffgen, which you will read more about below, and then Frueh are both usually popular with first-time Kolsch drinkers, as they are beautifully light and subtly fruity. Pfaffen is, in a way, a spin-off from the Paffgen, and boasts a darker and more bitter flavor, along with strong notes of honey. The Dom is another type worth trying, as this is still considered to be a Kolsch but tastes distinctly like an ale.
Just around the corner from Cologne’s main railway station, the P.J Fruh beer hall is known for being home to one of the most elegant varieties of Kolsch in the city. This is not a venue that offers up extensive beer lists, with the patrons simply indicating to the staff how many beers they would like. With the barrels being situated just a few meters away, it is no surprise that the Kolsch here tastes incredibly fresh, and is quite a fruity variety with subtle touches of apple.
Paffgen Brewery Tap
While the Paffgen Brewery Tap may seem quite out of the way, it is definitely worth the trek, as this is a truly classic Kolsch that all beer fans should try. The tiny casks here only hold 15 liters each, meaning that each beer is beautifully fresh, as new casks are constantly being tapped. Alongside the freshness, the malt flavors and crushed grain aromas come through quite strongly here, and, in addition to some spiciness, there is also a touch of honey to balance this beer back out.
To really make the most of the Kolsch experience, it is vital that you try as many different Kolsch varieties as possible, as this is the only way to truly refine your palette to its unique subtleties. As an added bonus, the tiny 0.2 liter glasses that Kolsch is served in make it all too easy to spend your day tasting your way around Cologne.