Best Enjoyed: Fresh, from Brauhaus Früh am Dom.
Kölsch is to Cologne (known as 'Köln' to Germans), what champagne is to the Champagne region of France. It is their signature drink that can be brewed nowhere but Cologne. Kölsch is part of Cologne’s identity and it is part of what sets it apart from its long-standing and bitter rival Düsseldorf.
Kölsch is a clear, light, straw-yellow beer that is less bitter than the standard German lager beer. Kölsch is top-fermented at a relatively warm temperature (13 to 21°C, or 55 to 70°F) making it one of only a few traditional German ales. The other is a dark ale known as Altbier (literally ‘old beer’) that is brewed in Cologne’s historic rival city of Düsseldorf. Ordering a Altbier in Cologne will certainly be met with dirty looks and may even receive a sarcastic response stating “If you want a dark beer we can turn the lights off for you.”
Kölsch is typically served at cellar temperature in long, thin, cylindrical 0.2 liter glasses. This glass is known as a Stange (pole), but also has a few nicknames such as Reagenzglas (test tube), or Fingerhut (thimble).
The first written evidence of a beer brewer in Cologne is around the year 1170. Mention is made here of a house being sold to “Ezelin bruere” (Ezelin, the brewer). From this date on, the names of brewers and breweries appeared repeatedly in the records as Kölsch breweries sprung up throughout the city.
One of the most prominent beer halls in Cologne is that of Früh Kölsch. Peter Josef Früh founded the original brewery 1895 and in 1904 the brewery was opened in its current location on the city’s main square just below the massive spires of the Kölner Dom cathedral. Following the bombing raids of World War Two Früh brewery was the only brewery in Cologne left standing and with suck luck Früh remains to be a favourite of both locals and tourists alike.