Kolsch: The Beer That Rebuilt Cologne

Hallo again, back from a recent trip across the border into German territory.  Cologne (Koln in German) is a city known for its WWII history, The Rhein and of course it’s ability to produce Kölsch Beer.  Germans, as much as any other country, have a certain amount of local pride when it comes to beer production.  In total, there are approximately 1300 breweries in Germany producing over 5000 brands of beer.  Yet, the Germans are behind the Czechs and the Irish in their per capita consumption of beer.  Ask any German and he will dispute this fact.  While in the city of Cologne I found it hard to believe there could be a harder drinking society.  You can legally drink a pint-sized bottle of beer while walking down the street, but if you are caught jay-walking you may as well run.

Kölsch, also written Koelsch, is a local beer speciality brewed in Cologne, Germany. It is a clear beer with a bright straw-yellow hue, and it has a prominent, but not extreme, hoppiness. It is less bitter than the standard German pale lager.

Kölsch is strictly defined by the Kölsch Konvention, an agreement between the members of the Cologne Brewery Association. It is a pale, highly attenuated, hoppy, clear, top-fermenting beer with an original gravity of between 11 and 16 degrees Plato (1.044—1.065). In practice almost all Kölsch brands have a very similar gravity near the middle of this range.

Thank you Wikipedia for that information I failed to grasp while visiting a number of breweries while in Cologne.  I should also mention that at this moment I am not drinking a Kölsch but a slightly fruity Belgian beer: Cuvée Des Trolls (Vintage of Trolls).  I did not return to Belgian with German beer, for one I find the Belgian beer more to my liking and two the Belgians don’t take kindly to German beer importers.

Wednesday:  So, I had gone to Cologne to visit a friend I made while living in New Zealand, Michel Franzen.  Fellow traveler, surfer and German beer drinker by default-he’s German.  My goals for the trip were a photo of a beer and bratwurst, which is a lot harder to find than a Currywurst or Doner Kebap, and to visit as many brew pubs and breweries as possible in a 48 hour period.  Upon meeting Michel we rushed to the nearest Kiosk, where for a mere 1.9 Euros one can purchase two bottles of Gaffel Kölsch and have them opened by the attendant.  The trip had started as planned…

Thursday: Wake, rub eyes, ask self what happened-recollect.

Having brushed the foul stench of Weimaraner shit from my mouth (because that’s how I explain that awful taste in your mouth after having too many the night before) and drinking enough coffee to bring me to my senses, I set out on foot to see the grand city of Cologne.  If you have never awoken in a strange land and walked for hours aimlessly, I strongly recommend you do so.  You get a sense of the people who make up a place and generally find something most tourists do not.

Enough, I was hungry and jacked on coffee, it was time to find a beer and food.  In attempting to do so, I found that German’s are particularly lazy.  Bakery-open, grocery store-open (too much effort), pubs/bars-closed, greasy food stall vendor’s-closed. Fuck.  So I walk, and walk, and walk…you get the idea.  By noon I had seen the sites of Cologne, some that are advertised and many that were not. The most famous of these sites is the Cologne Cathedral or Kölner Dom.  It is massive. Old (1248-1880). And the only remaining architecture after the allies bombed the shit out of the German’s in WWII.  The city is centered around this landmark and has many large squares and promenades for pedestrians to eat drink and be merry, as long as it is not before noon.

Part of the Cathedral

It was in one of these squares I saw a shop with a few tables and chairs outside was finally open.  It was a Doner Kebap shop, Turkish sandwiches with rotating meat-the kind that you know you shouldn’t eat but do anyway.  I indulged.  It was sufficient for now.  Back to wandering around the cathedral’s main square I noticed what turned out to be the beer hall for Gaffel Kölsch, previously mentioned and Michel’s preferred Kölsch.  It was open, I entered and was immediately where I needed to be all morning.  Yes, I had just eaten Turkish fast-food, but the menu had on offer another of Germany’s favorite dishes: Currywurst.  How could I deny myself

Truly German cuisine-Currywurst und Kölsch.

the opportunity to indulge in such…splendor.  It felt as though I had checked something off the bucket list and got it on camera.

I could stop here but I had 24 more hours in the city of Kölsch and more than a few breweries to visit.

Friday: Repeat Thursday AM…Make bus at 7:00PM

My host and I had consumed more than our fair share of Fruh Kölsch the night before while playing Foosball in smokey corner bars.  The agreement before passing out was that I would go to the corner grocery store and get breakfast. It had to be greasy so we could absorb the previous nights indulgence.  So a breakfast consisting of bratwurst, eggs and potatoes (all fried) should handle the task at hand.

By now it was afternoon.  We had a list of brewpubs and breweries to attend to and I had a bus to catch at 7.  First stop: Päffgen Kölsch.  Here was my first experience with the beer hall Köbes, or middle-aged male beer servers.  They have two duties: serve beer rudely and keep track of beer consumption.  The high-tech way of tallying beers is to make marks on your beer coaster.  When one is finished drinking, the coaster is placed on top of your empty beer glass and the Köbes brings your tab.  Should you forget to do so you are served more beer, not a bad mistake in my book.  So we consumed a number of Päffgen, placed the coaster on said glass and paid. Uneventful-slightly buzzed.

Then we were off to a more local favorite, Fruh Kölsch.  Meandering through narrow side roads we eventually came out in the main square of the aforementioned cathedral.  Fruh is conveniently located in this square.  It stands as being one of the oldest brauhaus’ in Cologne.  Beyond the entrance you descend two flights of stairs through what looks like a WWII bunker/wine cellar.  Within this cellar is a newly renovated bar.  A much more authentic feeling  environment compared to the previous locale.  We sat and received much better treatment this time from our Köbes.  I have to say that the beer was only slightly different in flavor, it would take a true German to tell the difference.  Having sat in the cellar for an uncounted number of beers, when we exited the sun punished us with its rays.

So we rambled on to three more outdoor beer halls/patio bars and consumed nothing but Kölsch for 2 more hours.  Coincidentally ran onto some American’s who were from a town not 10-minutes from my own hometown in Wisconsin and then made the bus at 7pm.  So you can see I am bored of this post and by now you have all tuned out.  If you made it this far you have read 1300 words, for christ’s sake get a fucking life.  I assure you the next post will not be the length of a grade school text-book.

Go to Koln, it’s Kool.  It has Kölsch and the people are nice and drunk, always.

Next week I visit Geneva.  Why, you ask.  Well, I got a cheap flight.  Will explain it next time.

Adios muchachos.

Rating: 3 drunken mugs -beer consumption was way above average-money spent below.

Michel and Paffgen

Peter's Brauhuas

Fruh

Brauhaus Sion

Cathedral


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About beersofeurope

Reside: Belgium Goal of Blog: European beer brewery tours/tastings
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