“Drinking a Kölsch beer is more than just drinking a beer: it’s like drinking an entire culture.”

So wrote The New York Times -- and a huge cheers to that! Kölsch beer is the distinct local beer of Cologne, a major cultural metropolis over 2,000 years old -- equally known for its imposing majestic Cathedral and romantic Hohenzollern Bridge, weighed down by thousands of love locks.

A clear, all-barley pale brew (one of the palest German beers, in fact) with a bright, straw-yellow hue -- Kölsch beer has a characteristically fruity flavor, is subtle and light in body as much as appearance and is celebrated for its wonderful hoppiness. This is all derived from its own special ale yeast, with which the brew is warm-fermented (at about 55-70 degrees Fahrenheit) and then aged and mellowed (or ‘lagered’) near the freezing point – a nearly two month process. Kölsch is always served in the traditional straight-side, narrow, cylindrical 6.75 fluid ounces (or 0.2 liter) glass called a Stange (which translates to ‘rod’ or ‘pole’ in English). The glass is six inches tall but just two inches in diameter, making it almost two and a half times smaller than a British pint glass.

First produced in 1906 – although it did not start officially being called Kölsch until 1918 – Kölsch did not become popular until after World War II. But the city of Cologne has been brewing beer for over a thousand years – that’s more than two hundred years before its UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cologne Cathedral, was even built. Back then, as in most of Germany, beers were of the ale variety. As the Middle Ages neared its end, brewers started making lagers (the so-called ‘new’ beers).

Fast-forward to the 18th century when new inventions in malting techniques allowed the kilning of pale barley malts. Cologne’s brewers began developing new beer filtration styles and scientific yeast management systems, setting it quite apart from other German pale lagers. It is Germany’s only all-barley, pale ale as Bavaria’s Weissbier (or Weizen) is made mostly from wheat. Düsseldorf’s Altbier is usually made entirely from barley.

While the German government recognizes and protects Kölsch beer, only allowing specified brewers to legally call their lagers ‘Kölsch’ – the brew is mainly popular in the native city it derives its namesake from. Cologne, of course, is called Köhn by the Germans. And so the very term Kölsch loosely translates to ‘Cologne-ish.’ It can be used as an adverb, for various people and places. But naturally, the beer is most locals favored definition!

So drink up in a traditional Brauhaus (a German pub) where the Köbes are happy to serve the ale one after another until you say no (or put the beer pad down!). It is the most authentic way to imbibe the beer and enjoy like a local Köhn!

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