Let’s talk about about Kölsch. Our guests are Jenny Pfafflin of Chicago’s Dovetail Brewery and Jeremy Altier of Royal Oak Brewery of Royal Oak, Michigan.

History and Style

From the All About Beer archives:

Photo by Em Sauter.

Kölsch takes its name from the Cologne (Köln in German) dialect, which is known as Kölsch. The beer is a pale yellow, soft, refreshing ale, sometimes brewed with a touch of wheat malt and usually lightly hopped. It can be quite sweet from the malt or perhaps a bit more bitter from the hops, depending on the brewer. At a glance, a glass of kölsch can easily be mistaken for a standard pilsner, and perhaps that’s done on purpose in these modern times. Much like a pilsner, a typical kölsch is about 5 percent alcohol by volume in strength.

The only beer protected by the European Union, kölsch lays claim to an “appellation controllée.” At the Kölsch Convention in 1986, 24 breweries in Cologne and nearby towns agreed that a beer could only be called a “kölsch” if it met the following criteria:

1) Brewed in Cologne or the immediate area

2) Top fermented

3) Pale in color and clear

4) Filtered

5) Brewed between 11 and 14 degrees Plato (a brewer’s measuring unit)

6) Served in a 20-centiliter stange (a tall, narrow, straight-sided glass)

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John Holl is the editor of All About Beer Magazine.