Recently, after a particularly strenuous day, I headed in to Hop Burns & Black for a couple of beers, as you do. Choosing one beer when presented with a breadth of quality as in a shop such as this can be tough – but not on this occasion. I was hypnotised, almost instantly, by the red and white spirals that wrap themselves around a can of Früh Kölsch.
Kölsch as a beer style is often criminally overlooked, for me at least. I’m pleased to see that UK brewers such as Thornbridge and Orbit are having a crack at producing their own interpretations of the style though.
I love the concept of Kölsch: a light bodied beer, fermented like an ale but then conditioned as a lager. It’s perhaps closer to the latter in terms of body and flavour, but something about the fermentation method allows the yeast to come to the fore. Subtle notes of red berries and stone fruit mixed with crushed grain and just the faintest hint of bitterness are the hallmarks of a good Kölsch.
The style originates from the German city of Cologne and there’s probably no place better to enjoy a Kölsch than at its origin point. It’s a style that’s also found a lot of favour in the US, being a staple on the taps at pretty much any brewpub you decide to rock up to. A lot of these never quite hits the mark like a Kölsch really can, though. I think Früh is perhaps my favourite example of the style, wherever I happen to find it – be it at a street side Cologne bar, or in the fridge at my local bottle shop.
With this year being the 500th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot – the German beer purity law of 1516 - there will surely be a lot of discussion centered around the German classics. There’ll also be a chance to dwell on the beers that exist as a direct result of this law, such as this superb Kölsch. However in my opinion these beers were never meant to be dwelled upon, so I’d just get on with drinking it.