Kolsch

Kolsch

 

Testimonials

"Brewed this a few months ago and have tapped the second keg. My family and friends love it, so looks like a beer I'll have to brew often. Thanks for the share. I used the Wyeast 2565 and really like it. This is a top of the line Kolsch, your going to love this beer. I'll be brewing this again, soon." - Castermmt

"I am brewing the Kolsch today since it's been such a huge hit. I brought it to my high school homecoming and the 5 gallon keg of Kolsch was gone in about three hours; beer drinkers AND swill drinkers love this..." - Jerz

"This one is pretty easy to make and it tastes good. We have a winner!"- Ashquest

"After watching Anthony Bourdain's Season 7 Parts Unknown where he visits Cologne's restaurants and drinks a lot of Kolsch with some great food, I had to make some.. drinking it now.. its superb.. Kal's right .. get the right yeast... Side note.. the Kolsch was my 200th batch on my system.. still chugging along nicely. Cheers!"- silverspoons

"Just tapped this today after conditioning for 2 months. Perfect beer for the hot weather. I was rushed during the kegging process that I forgot to use gelatin so the final product isn’t crystal clear. But the taste is great! I enjoyed this one more than the blonde ale / lager recipe. - dward4421

 

Introduction

Kolsch (or Koelsch) is a clean, crisp, delicate ale, with a light grainy Pilsner malt flavour and aroma. Usually lightly hopped (20-30 IBU) and reasonably low alcohol (4.4-5.2% ABV). A great gateway beer to steer light lager drinkers towards more flavourful offerings without completely scaring them away.

While Kolsch has origins in the long existing German wheat beers (Weissbier / Keutebier) that trace back 500 years or more, the current form was originally brewed in Koln (Cologne) Germany starting in the early 1900s. It never became particularly popular in the first half of the twentieth century as Germans were already enjoying new found cleaner tasting lagers. Brewers in Cologne (and the Altbier brewers of Dusseldorf) stubbornly continued to produce top-fermented ales, while almost every other brewery in Germany turned out bottom-fermented lagers.

Today, with beer interests moving away from lighter tasting lagers, Kolsch has seen a resurgence in recent years with strong exports to the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China and Brazil. The three largest brands are made by private family breweries - Gaffel, Früh and Reissdorf.

Gaffel Kolsch, served in the correct glasses in New York City's Lower East SideGaffel Kolsch, served in the correct glasses in New York City's Lower East Side. Image (c) nytimes.com

Many American brewpubs and breweries have now created their own (often quite different) interpretations of the style, including Goose Island Summertime, Sam Adams East-West Kolsch, Short's Kolsch 45, and Rogue Honey Kolsch. Up in Canada there is Beau's Lug Tread.

Kolsch is one of the few beers that gets its own special glass. Unlike their Bavarian cousins who prefer large serving vessels, Kolsch is traditionally served in a 0.2 litre (~6 oz) Kolsch glass (called a 'Stange') which is tall and cylindrical. The idea behind the small glass is that the beer stays fresh and cold as it doesn't sit around for long.

Kolsch stange glass and coasters

In traditional Cologne pubs Kolsch waiters (Kobes) will continue to exchange your empty Kolsch glasses with new ones unprompted until you leave your glass half full or place your coaster on the glass to signal that you're done. The waiters carry these filled glasses of the beer around the beer hall, in special circular trays called a Kranz, ready to replace any empty glasses immediately. As each beer is served, a mark is made on the coaster, which is then used to calculate your bill. Waiters are encouraged (or expected) to speak the local dialect which is also called "Kolsch" and to use fairly rough, unrefined language, which might include crude jokes with the customers.

Kobe waiter serves Kolsch from circular Kranz tray

The malt bill and hop schedule are extremely straightforward. Given the delicate nature of the beer, it's important to use good quality fresh ingredients, such as Weyermann malt.

The key to brewing an authentic Kolsch is using the right yeast: The two most popular options are Wyeast 2565 Kolsch or White Labs WLP029 German Ale / Kolsch. While you can make a great clean tasting beer using other yeasts (such as Fermentis Safale US-05), it just won't have the same flavour and aroma as a true Kolsch. Try a split batch yourself and see the difference the yeast makes. In fact, try a split batch with these two Kolsch yeast strains as well to see how they differ: WY2565 tends to be more flavourful with a subtle hint of fruit / white wine and some yeast derived flavours, while WLP029 produces a cleaner tasting more lager-like beer. The sources for the yeasts is rumoured to be Paffgen for WY2565 and Fruh for WLP029. Both work, it depends on which Kolsch you prefer. We tend to prefer WY2565 for the added flavours.

Fruh Kolsch

Kolsch is strictly defined by an agreement between members of the Cologne Brewery Association known as the Kolsch Konvention such that a Kolsch can only be called Kolsch if it is brewed within the region of Cologne. (Similar to how the name "champagne" can only be used for sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France). If you brew up your own outside of Cologne and call it a Kolsch, we won't tell. 😉

Brew up a batch and let us know how you like it!

 

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Kolsch

Size: 12 US gallons (post-boil @ 68F)
Mash Efficiency: 95%
Attenuation: 82%
Calories: 149 kcal per 12 fl oz
Original Gravity:
1.045 (style range: 1.044 - 1.050)
Terminal Gravity: 1.008 (style range: 1.007 - 1.011)
Colour: 3 SRM (style range: 3.5 - 5)
Alcohol: 4.9% ABV (style range: 4.4% - 5.2%)
Bitterness: 21 IBU (style range: 20 - 30)

Mash:
16 lb German Pilsner Malt (1.5-2.1L) (95%)
0.85 lb Weyermann Vienna Malt (3-4L) (5%)

Boil:
2 oz German Hallertau Hops (6.7%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min [20.9 IBU]
1 Whirlfloc Tablet (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min

Yeast:
6 packs Wyeast 2565 Kolsch yeast (or an appropriate starter)
- or -
6 packs White Labs WLP029 German Ale / Kolsch yeast (or an appropriate starter)

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Notes / Process

  • Add 500mg potassium metabisulphite to 20 gallons water to remove chlorine / chloramine (if required).
  • Water treated with brewing salts to our Balanced flavour profile: Ca=50, Mg=10, Na=16, Cl=70, SO4=70. (Hit minimums on Ca and Mg, keep the Cl:SO4 ratio low and equal. Do not favour flavour / maltiness or bitterness / dryness. For balanced beers.). For complete details on how to adjust your water, refer to our step by step Water Adjustment guide.
  • 1.5 qt/lb mash thickness.
  • Start the mash at 120F (low end of the protein rest range) and immediately start raising to 149F (starch conversion / saccharification rest temperature) and hold for 90-120 mins.
  • Raise to 168F mashout temperature and hold for 10 mins.
  • ~90 min fly sparge with ~5.6-5.8 pH water (measured at mash temperature). Collect 14.9 gallons.
  • Boil for 90 minutes, adding Whirlfloc and hops per schedule. Lid on at flameout, start chilling immediately.
  • Cool the wort quickly to 60F (we use a one-pass convoluted counterflow chiller to quickly lock in hop flavour and aroma) and transfer to fermenter.
  • Aerate well. Pure oxygen from a tank may be used at a rate of 1 litre per minute for 120 seconds per 5 gallons.
  • Pitch yeast and ferment at 60F (wort temperature). We use modified stainless fermenting buckets in wine fridges.
  • Ferment until approximately 5 points from final gravity and then raise the temperature to 70-72F until finished. In our case we simply turn off the fermenting fridges and allow the beer to naturally rise to room temperature. Assume fermentation is done if the gravity does not change over ~3 days.
  • Rack to a brite tank (we use 5 gallon glass carboys) that has been purged with CO2 to avoid oxygen pickup, add 1 tsp of unflavoured gelatin dissolved in a cup of hot distilled water per 5 gallons of beer, and allow to clear for 2-3 days. Note that even when using gelatin, WY2565 typically requires more time to fall clear than WLP029.
  • Package as you would normally. We rack to kegs that have first been purged with CO2. We chill the kegs to near freezing while carbonating at the same time in a 6-keg conditioning fridge. After ~1-2 weeks at serving pressure the kegs will be carbonated and ready to serve. In a hurry? Feel free to raise the CO2 pressure temporarily to 30-40 PSI to carbonate fast over a 24 period, and then turn back down to serving pressure. 
  • Carbonate this beer to around 2.5 volumes of CO2.
  • This beer will improve greatly if conditioned just above freezing for at least 4 weeks before serving (6-8 weeks is better). Avoid keeping the beer unrefrigerated for extended periods. It will remain clean and crisp for months if kept near freezing.

For detailed brewing instructions, see our Brew Day Step by Step guide.

Enjoy!

Questions? Visit our Kolsch forum thread

 

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Pictures / Videos

Interested in seeing what we're brewing right now? Follow us on Instagram for pictures and videos of our brewing activities as they happen.

Kolsch

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Couple of photos that show how starter yeast settles out over time. First photo is after 2 hours of chilling, second photo is after 12 hours and shows the layer of yeast forming on the bottom. I'll likely brew later today and pitch ~24 hours from now at which point the yeast will be completely settled. I always decant the liquid and only pitch the yeast to avoid watering down the wort. Two vials because I'm pitching in two fermenters (I often do split batches with different yeasts). 🍻 . TheElectricBrewery.com ... A step by step guide to building your own brewery . #theelectricbrewery #electricbrewery #electricbrewing #homebrewing #homebrew #brewing #craftbeer #beer #dohomebrew #homebrewer #nanobrewery #picobrewery #pilotbrewery #homebrewporn #buildingabrewery #brewery #brewyourown #beerrecipes #kolsch #Kölsch #yeast #yeaststarter

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Wort chilled to ~56F. Time to pitch the yeasties and aerate. I've done pure O2 from a stone but usually use a degassing wand as it's much quicker and I've never seen any differences in attenuation, flavour, or lag time for ~1.045 beers like this. For complete details on the equipment I use to ferment and how I do it, see the 'Ferment and Package' article on my website. 🍻 . TheElectricBrewery.com ... A step by step guide to building your own brewery . #theelectricbrewery #electricbrewery #electricbrewing #homebrewing #homebrew #brewing #craftbeer #beer #dohomebrew #homebrewer #nanobrewery #picobrewery #pilotbrewery #homebrewporn #buildingabrewery #brewery #brewyourown #beerrecipes #kolsch #Kölsch #brewday #yeast

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Kölsch only 2 weeks after kegging and conditioning near freezing. Already has a wonderful thick and frothy head that never seems to dissipate. Another couple of weeks and it should be perfect. This one was fermented with WY2565 instead of WLP029 and confirmed my previous findings that WY2565 is more flavourful, more Kölsch-like (if that makes any sense). WLP029 produces a more lager-like beer. Both work, depends what you're after. Style wise Kölsch is a clean, crisp, delicate ale, with a light grainy Pilsner malt flavour and aroma. Usually lightly hopped (20-30 IBU) and reasonably low alcohol (4.4-5.2% ABV). A great gateway beer to steer light lager drinkers towards more flavourful offerings without completely scaring them away. Recipe and more info on my website! 🍻 . TheElectricBrewery.com ... A step by step guide to building your own brewery . #theelectricbrewery #electricbrewery #electricbrewing #homebrewing #homebrew #brewing #craftbeer #beer #dohomebrew #homebrewer #nanobrewery #picobrewery #pilotbrewery #homebrewporn #buildingabrewery #brewery #brewyourown #beerrecipes #kolsch #Kölsch

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New yeast starter on its way while I enjoy a perfect hoppy German Pilsner. This starter is for a Kölsch I’ll be brewing this weekend - a clean and crisp (not hoppy) hybrid summer beer that’s quick to brew and ferment - recipe on my website! Want to get non-craft drinkers drinking craft? Serve them a Kölsch! My stir plate does a great job creating a funnel right down to the bottom which helps oxygenate the wort to create more sugar eating yeasties. Want to learn how and why to make a yeast starter? See the guide on my website. . ‪TheElectricBrewery.com ... A step by step guide to building your own brewery‬ . #theelectricbrewery #electricbrewery #electricbrewing #homebrewing #homebrewingonly #homebrew #homebrewery #brewing #craftbeer #beer #dohomebrew #homebrewer #nanobrewery #picobrewery #pilotbrewery #homebrewporn #buildingabrewery #brewery #basementbrewery #brewyourown #germanpilsner #pilsner #beerrecipes #kolsch #Kölsch #yeaststarter

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Brew day! Making a Kolsch. I preheated the HLT last night part way so it doesn’t have far to go to reach strike temp this morning. Grain’s already milled and salts/hops measured. This is always a great summer beer - needs a month or two of conditioning so I’m making it early. 🍻 . ‪TheElectricBrewery.com ... A step by step guide to building your own brewery‬ . #theelectricbrewery #electricbrewery #electricbrewing #homebrewing #homebrewingonly #homebrew #homebrewery #brewing #craftbeer #beer #dohomebrew #homebrewer #nanobrewery #picobrewery #pilotbrewery #homebrewporn #buildingabrewery #brewery #basementbrewery #brewyourown #beerrecipes #Kölsch #kolsch #brewday

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Brew day! 90 min mash of this Kolsch is done. Temperature held perfectly (I set the HLT to 150F and the MLT follows exactly). Time to mashout to 168F and lock in those enzymes for good. Complete details in my BREW DAY STEP BY STEP guide: http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/brew-day-step-by-step 🍻 . ‪TheElectricBrewery.com ... A step by step guide to building your own brewery‬ . #theelectricbrewery #electricbrewery #electricbrewing #homebrewing #homebrewingonly #homebrew #homebrewery #brewing #craftbeer #beer #dohomebrew #homebrewer #nanobrewery #picobrewery #pilotbrewery #homebrewporn #buildingabrewery #brewery #basementbrewery #brewyourown #beerrecipes #Kölsch #kolsch #brewday

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Brew day! Boil underway. How hard you boil has always been a somewhat controversial topic, but going hard has always worked well for me. I find it’s best for long term stability, clarity, and seems to even help head retention. Using a 5500W element running at 85% in 13.9 gallon of wort. For this 90 min boil I’ll boil off 2.9 gallons. 🍻 . ‪TheElectricBrewery.com ... A step by step guide to building your own brewery‬ . #theelectricbrewery #electricbrewery #electricbrewing #homebrewing #homebrewingonly #homebrew #homebrewery #brewing #craftbeer #beer #dohomebrew #homebrewer #nanobrewery #picobrewery #pilotbrewery #homebrewporn #buildingabrewery #brewery #basementbrewery #brewyourown #beerrecipes #Kölsch #kolsch #brewday

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We have liftoff! Active fermentation underway turning wort into Kolsch (well, about as active as you can expect with WLP029 working at a pseudo lager temp of 60F). I always get asked about the special brew bucket mods I’ve done and the fridges I used to ferment. See: http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/ferment-and-package 🍻 . ‪TheElectricBrewery.com ... A step by step guide to building your own brewery‬ . #theelectricbrewery #electricbrewery #electricbrewing #homebrewing #homebrewingonly #homebrew #homebrewery #brewing #craftbeer #beer #dohomebrew #homebrewer #nanobrewery #picobrewery #pilotbrewery #homebrewporn #buildingabrewery #brewery #basementbrewery #brewyourown #beerrecipes #Kölsch #kolsch #brewday

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