Before the relatively recent surge in craft beer light lagers, kölsch was a go-to beer for brewers looking to reach a new consumer ready to make a switch from mass-produced lagers to the growing microbrew scene. It makes sense. Kölsch is a traditional German-style beer that’s actually made with ale yeast but conditioned like a lager. The result is a hybrid beer of sorts that often drinks like a nice light German lager.
The difference however is that, thanks to the ale yeast, it drinks with a little more floral character to the nose and palate. It’s malt-forward, which does help offer hop-adverse drinkers an easy access point with this style. Here are some of our favorite kölsch-style beers.
Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing Co. hit a home run with Travelin’ Light. A brewery well-known for its dark and malty stouts, Travelin’ Light provides Left Hand fans with a great reprieve. Pouring a light yellow, Travelin’ Light is light on the tongue and crisp with light herbal hops.
Oregon’s pFriem Family Brewers might just be the best brewery in the country, especially at brewing beers to style honoring those who originated a style. pFriem’s Kölsch-style ale uses plenty of German ingredients to achieve a light, drinkable beer. Slightly fruity and a bit bready, the Kölsch-style ale also provides plenty of bubbles on the tongue.
Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen found a star in its Kölsch German-Style Ale, hitting all the right notes that the original brewers in Cologne, Germany, aimed to achieve. The soft, light-bodied beer still manages to provide complex flavors that leave even the most experienced beer fan happy.
Well known for its lemony Summer Shandy, Leinenkugel also produces a good amount of classic German-style beers, including a kölsch. Canoe Paddle provides some zest from a bit of rye malt added to the malt bill. Otherwise, it’s a crisp, clean example of the beer style.
Long ago, Saint Arnold Brewing started brewing Lawnmower, a German-style kölsch aimed at being a perfect beer to sip on during a hot day. The beer, when served a bit chilled, offers a perfect crisp and refreshing thirst quencher. Malt forward, Lawnmower also offers a balanced citrus hop character.
Middle American brewers have achieved prime kölsch style beers, perhaps because it’s the American breadbasket. Kansas City’s Boulevard American kölsch melds Pilsner and wheat malts to provide that nice bread backbone. Add in some nice grassy hops and the American kölsch’s honey sweetness and herbal hop notes hit all the right notes.
Schlafly proudly boasts that it makes its Kölsch ale with a yeast strain from Köln, Germany, the homeland of the style. The ale drinks like a lager, the aforementioned reason so many brewers have turned to this beer. It’s light and delicate but still full of flavor.
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