Even if you’ve never tried one, you’ve probably seen Kolsch beers listed on a menu at a restaurant or brewery. That’s especially true in the late spring and summer when they’re most common. But did you know that producing them has stricter guidelines than many other well-known beers?
Just as all bourbon needs to be made in the U.S. (not just in Kentucky) and all cognac needs to be made in a specific area of France, in order for a beer to truly be called a Kolsch, it must be brewed within fifty miles of the German city of Cologne. It’s actually named after the German dialect spoken in Köln. Moreover, this style of beer must be produced using the Kölsch Konvention, meaning it should be a pale, hoppy, bright (i.e. filtered, not cloudy), top-fermenting beer—and meet Reinheitsgebot (traditional regulations regarding ingredients). Luckily, non-German brewers can make their own version without following all of these rules as long as they describe their product as a “Kolsch-style” beer.
Strict rules aside, this pale beer is slightly hoppy, a little fruity, crisp, and refreshing with a dry, pleasant finish. While it’s not technically a lager due to how it’s produced, it drinks like thirst-quenching pilsner. That’s why it’s so popular during the warmer months. It takes all the best parts of a lager and an ale.
While you can’t technically call your beer a Kolsch if it wasn’t produced in the direct vicinity of Cologne, that doesn’t mean brewers all over the world haven’t embraced the style. This is especially true in the U.S., where many craft breweries have their own year-round and seasonal Kolsch-style beers available. Keep scrolling to see 10 of our favorites.
1. Saint Arnold Fancy Lawnmower
With a name like Fancy Lawnmower, you better believe this is a crushable, easy-drinking, summer beer. It’s brewed to taste like the classic Kölsch beers of Cologne. Made with a ton of German-grown Hallertauer hops, it also includes a specific Kölsch yeast. The result is a well-balanced, crisp beer with tons of citrus essence paired with caramel malts to create a multi-dimensional warm-weather beer.
[$8.50 for a six-pack; saintarnold.com]
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