Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Kölsch is a local beer speciality brewed in Cologne in Germany. It is a clear beer, relatively weak for German (but not American) standards, its hue is bright yellow and it has a prominent, but not extreme taste of hops. Compared to the German "standard" beer, Pils, it is less bitter. Also other than Pils it is a top-fermented beer, meaning that it is fermented rather quickly at between 15-20°C causing the yeast to rise to the top, while Pils is fermented slowly at much colder temperatures. However, Kölsch yeast is often confused with a bottom-fermented beer yeast because of its relatively low fermentation temperature. Although it ferments colder than most Ales, it is definitely an Ale.
Kölsch should be served at cellar temperature (about 10°C/50°F, not near freezing). It is usually served in long, thin, cylindrical 0.2 litre glasses. This glass is known as a Stange, but is often derisively called a Reagenzglas (test tube). Recently though, many bars have moved to satisfy their more thirsty customers by offering larger, less traditional glasses (0.3 l or 0.4 l) of the same shape. Since 1936 Kölsch has also been available in bottled form. Kölsch is often accompanied by simple Cologne delicacies such as the Halve Hahn (a rye roll with butter and dutch cheese, not a half rooster as the name would suggest) or Blootwoosch (blood sausage).
Beer has been brewed in Cologne since 874, but the term Kölsch was officially used for the first time in 1918 to describe the type of beer that had been brewed by the Sünner brewery since 1906. This type of beer developed from the similar, but cloudier variant Wiess. It never became particularly popular in the first half of the twentieth century, when the most popular beer was bottom-fermented, just as in the rest of Germany. Until World War II, there were over 40 breweries in Cologne, but in the aftermath of the devastations wrought by the war, that number was reduced to two.
In 1946 however, many of the breweries managed to re-establish themselves. During the 1940s and 1950s Kölsch still couldn't match the sales of bottom-fermented beer, but beginning in the 1960s it rose in popularity and achieved hegemony in the Cologne beer market. From a production of merely 500,000 hectoliters in 1960, Cologne's beer production peaked in 1980, when 3.7 million hectoliters were produced. Due to recent increases in price and changed habits of alcohol consumption, the sale has decreased causing economic hardship for many of the traditional corner bars (Kölschkneipen ) and for smaller breweries. Today, the annual consumption of Kölsch is about 3 million hectoliters.
Around thirty breweries produce Kölsch in and around Cologne, the most important ones being Dom , Früh , Gaffel , Gilden , Reissdorf and Sion and the trend is towards consolidation. Kölsch is the only beer that may not be brewed outside the Cologne region, as determined by the Kölsch convention of 1986. There is a grandfather clause for a few breweries in the larger area, for example in Bonn, that were already established in 1986. However many brands are illegally brewed abroad on a small scale - especially in the US and Japan.
Kölsch stands in direct competition to Altbier, the production of which is centred around Düsseldorf, but which is ironically also produced by all the major breweries in Cologne. The rivalry between the cities of Cologne and Düsseldorf, bitter in the past but today mostly a humorous matter, is often expressed by the preference of one of these types of beer, and ordering the wrong kind in the wrong city has in fact resulted in abuse and even violence in the past, although today a couple of jokes about "foreigners" is probably all that would result. Another interesting sociological point concerning Kölsch is that its consumption is deemed acceptable by women to a much greater extent than other beers in Germany, and also that it is often drunk in groups of rather mixed social standing -- exclusivity is frowned upon by the Kölsch drinking culture, and there is a deal between the breweries that no Kölsch will be sold with any extra titles like "Premium", "Special", "Extra high quality" or some such. Karl Marx once famously remarked that his revolution couldn't work in Cologne, since the bosses went to the same pubs as their workers. Kölsch waiters in traditional pubs are allowed, and indeed expected, to speak the local dialect and to use fairly rough, unrefined language, which might include crude jokes with the customers.
In 1999, during a G8 summit, President Bill Clinton paid the brewery Zur Malzmühle (The Malt Mill) a surprise visit, coining his own version of John F. Kennedy's homage to German cultural identity with the phrase: "Ich bin ein Kölsch (I am a Kölsch)"
Selected Kölsch brands
- Dom Kölsch
- Früh Kölsch
- Gaffel Kölsch
- Gilden Kölsch
- Küppers Kölsch
- Mühlen Kölsch
- Reissdorf Kölsch
- Sion Kölsch
- Sünner Kölsch
- Peters Kölsch
- Zunft Kölsch
- Sester Kölsch
- Päffgen Kölsch
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