Style Details

Name
Kölsch
Cate­go­ry
Pale Bit­ter Euro­pean Beer
BJCP Style Code
5 B
Appearan­ce
Very pale gold to light gold. Very clear (authen­tic com­mer­cial ver­si­ons are fil­te­red to a bril­li­ant cla­ri­ty). Has a deli­ca­te white head that may not per­sist.
Aro­ma
Low to very low malt aro­ma, with a grai­ny-sweet cha­rac­ter. A plea­sant, sub­t­le fruit aro­ma from fer­men­ta­ti­on (apple, cher­ry or pear) is accep­ta­ble, but not always pre­sent. A low flo­ral, spi­cy or her­bal hop aro­ma is optio­nal but not out of style. Some yeast strains may give a slight winy or sul­fu­ry cha­rac­ter (this cha­rac­te­ris­tic is also optio­nal, but not a fault). Over­all, the inten­si­ty of aro­ma­tics is fair­ly sub­t­le but gene­ral­ly balan­ced, clean, and fresh.
Fla­vour
Soft, roun­ded pala­te com­pri­sed of a deli­ca­te fla­vor balan­ce bet­ween soft yet atte­nua­ted malt, an almost imper­cep­ti­ble frui­ty sweet­ness from fer­men­ta­ti­on, and a medi­um-low to medi­um bit­ter­ness with a deli­ca­te dry­ness and slight cris­pness in the finish (but no har­sh after­tas­te). The malt tends to be grai­ny-sweet, pos­si­b­ly with a very light brea­dy or honey qua­li­ty. The hop fla­vor is varia­ble, and can ran­ge from low to moder­ate­ly-high; most are medi­um-low to medi­um inten­si­ty and have a flo­ral, spi­cy, or her­bal cha­rac­ter. May have a mal­ty-sweet impres­si­on at the start, but this is not requi­red. No noti­ce­ab­le resi­du­al sweet­ness. May have a slight­ly winy, mine­ral­ly, or sul­fu­ry accent that accen­tua­tes the dry­ness and fla­vor balan­ce. A slight wheat tas­te is rare but not a fault. Other­wi­se, very clean.
Mouth­feel
Medi­um-light to medi­um body (most are medi­um-light). Medi­um to medi­um-high car­bo­na­ti­on. Smooth and gene­ral­ly crisp and well-atte­nua­ted.
Over­all Impres­si­on
A clean, crisp, deli­ca­te­ly-balan­ced beer usual­ly with a very sub­t­le fruit and hop cha­rac­ter. Sub­dued mal­ti­ness throughout leads into a plea­s­ant­ly well-atte­nua­ted and refres­hing finish. Fresh­ness makes a huge dif­fe­rence with this beer, as the deli­ca­te cha­rac­ter can fade quick­ly with age. Bril­li­ant cla­ri­ty is cha­rac­te­ris­tic.
Typi­cal Ingre­dients
Tra­di­tio­nal Ger­man hops (Hal­lertau, Tett­nang, Spalt or Hers­bru­cker). Ger­man Pils or pale malt. Atte­nua­ti­ve, clean ale yeast. Up to 20% wheat malt may be used, but this is qui­te rare in authen­tic ver­si­ons. Cur­rent com­mer­cial prac­ti­ce is to fer­ment warm, cold con­di­ti­on for a short peri­od of time, and ser­ve young.
Histo­ry
Colo­gne, Ger­ma­ny (Köln) has a top-fer­men­ting brewing tra­di­ti­on sin­ce the Midd­le Ages, but deve­lo­ped the beer now known as Kölsch in the late 1800s to com­bat encroa­ching bot­tom-fer­men­ted pale lagers. Kölsch is an appel­la­ti­on pro­tec­ted by the Kölsch Kon­ven­ti­on (1986), and is restric­ted to the 20 or so bre­we­ries in and around Köln. The Kon­ven­ti­on sim­ply defi­nes the beer as a “light, high­ly atte­nua­ted, hop-accen­tua­ted, clear, top-fer­men­ting Voll­bier.”
Comments
Cha­rac­te­ri­zed in Ger­ma­ny as a top-fer­men­ted, lage­red beer. Each Köln bre­we­ry pro­du­ces a beer of dif­fe­rent cha­rac­ter, and each inter­prets the Kölsch Kon­ven­ti­on slight­ly dif­fer­ent­ly. Allow for a ran­ge of varia­ti­on wit­hin the style when jud­ging. Note that dri­er ver­si­ons may seem hop­pier or more bit­ter than the IBU spe­ci­fi­ca­ti­ons might sug­gest. Due to its deli­ca­te fla­vor pro­fi­le, Kölsch tends to have a rela­tively short shelf-life; older examp­les and imports can easi­ly show some oxi­da­ti­on defects. Ser­ved in Köln in a tall, nar­row 200ml glass cal­led a Stan­ge.
Com­mer­cial Examp­les
Früh Kölsch, Gaf­fel Kölsch, Müh­len Kölsch, Reiss­dorf Kölsch, Sion Kölsch, Sün­ner Kölsch
Ori­gi­nal Gra­vi­ty
1.044 - 1.050 SG
Final Gra­vi­ty
1.007 - 1.011 SG
Color
3 - 5 SRM
Alco­hol
4.0 - 5.0 %vol
Bit­ter­ness
18 - 30 IBU