Lately Peaks and Pints finds ourselves reaching for clean, classic styles rather than aggressively flavored beers full of exotic ingredients. Some equate “simple” and “low-alcohol” with “boring,” but there’s nothing more satisfying than a well-balanced brew. And that is exactly what Kölsch delivers. The style is renowned for being fairly unremarkable at that; it’s a pale beer — 4.8 to 5.3 percent ABV — that didn’t just originate in Cologne, or Köln, it technically can only be made there. Therefore, at the very least, we should spell it kolsch without the umlaut since, again, Kölsch is a Cologne appellation much like Champagne. Kolsch is made with ale yeast and is fermented warm, yet commonly aged at colder temperatures, making it a hybrid between the lager and the ale. A kolsch should be golden- to straw-colored, effervescent with subtle fruity sweetness, dryness, and a light- to medium-body. It’s crisp in hop character, but not bitter. Oh, in its homeland, Kölsch is served by the tray-full and placed in front of customers ad nauseum, with servers tallying up how many 0.2-liter cylindrical glasses, called stanges, have been placed down with a system of ticks on their coaster. At Peaks and Pints today, we’re serving five “Kölsch” (although none are brewed in Köln) in taster glasses in a flight we call Craft Beer Crosscut 5.19.19: A Flight of Kolsch.
BONUS: Tacoman Kelvin Keown will host a tasting of this flight at 3 p.m. in Peaks and Pints’ event room. Feel free to join along, adding your thoughts to each Kolsch.
Craft Beer Crosscut 5.19.19: A Flight of Kolsch
Occidental Brewing’s Kölsch reinforces that brewery’s reputation for making great German beer styles. The Kölsch is made with ale yeast and is fermented warm, yet commonly aged at colder temperatures, making it a hybrid between the lager and the ale. This is Occidental’s homage to the delicious ale of Cologne, Germany. It’s effervescent with subtle fruity sweetness, dryness, and a light- to medium-body. Crisp and dry, it is clean and lager-like, with a pleasant, slightly spicy hop profile supplied by German Perle.
4.8% ABV, 17 IBU
Seattle native Josh Pfriem began homebrewing while at Western Washington University in his early 20s then moved to Utah as a ski bum. He worked at Utah Brewers Cooperative for a few years before moving back to his old college town of Bellingham to brew at Chuckanut Brewery, where he helped win the Great American Beer Festival Small Brewpub of the Year in 2009. He moved to Hood River, Oregon to work at Full Sail but left in December 2011 to open pFriem Family Brewers — across the highway from Full Sail along the banks of the Columbia River — in August 2012. The brewery prides itself on its strong family focus and community involvement, as well as its ingredients — while many craft brewery websites list the notable spices and hops used in their brews, none we’ve encountered boast the encyclopedic cataloging of every ingredient the way pFriem does. Therefore, we know Weyermann Pilsner, Rahr Red Wheat, Acidulated Malt, Tettnang Tettnanger, Hallertau Perle, and Kölsch Strain yeast are in pFriem’s Kölsch-Style Ale. The result is a crisp aroma of “fresh pear, wild flowers, and green apple. Gentle flavors of ripening fruit, biscuit, and light grain. Alluring finish, light, dry, sparkly, and quaffable.”
4.8% ABV, 20 IBU
54°40′ Brewing uses a traditional imported Pilsner malt and a classic German yeast strain to create a true to style Kölsch beer in the States. It pours pale yellow with high, frothy head atop a fine, lively carbonation. The nose is all grain and bread. Käscadia brings a hint of lemon zest with some minor sweetness, light maltiness and biscuit. Expect a small hops snap at the finish.
4.5% ABV, 22 IBU
In the early 1980s, chemical engineer and homebrewer Will Kemper paid a visit to the brewmaster of the now-defunct Rainier Brewery in Seattle where he was told he couldn’t open a brewery because he wasn’t born into it. Good one. In 1984, Kemper, his wife, Mari, and Andy Thomas opened Thomas Kemper Brewery in Poulsbo, Washington. In 1992, Thomas Kemper merged with Hart Brewing, which went on to be Pyramid Breweries. The Kempers saw the ugly side of the business and became consultants with East Coast and international breweries. After a bunch of traveling, they moved back to Bellingham where they opened Chuckanut Brewery in 2008 — a convergence of technical and engineering concepts developed from more than two decades of professional involvement with craft brewing both home and abroad. They hired Josh Pfriem as their head brewer, who went on to open pFriem Family Brewers in Hood River, Oregon. Chuckanut Kölsch German Ale maintains a bitterness that is quite restrained, although the palate is light-bodied and bone-dry, with a soft malt flavor in the center giving way to a drying, slightly acidic finish. The flavor is big and full, bready, crisp, with a nice bite at the finish.
5.2% ABV, 40 IBU
Double Mountain Brewery built its empire around Pilsner malt sourced from British Columbia. We’re a big fan of pilsner malt — it imparts a definite smoothness to the brew, including Double Mountain Kölsch. A tribute to the style of beer native to Cologne (Köln), Germany, this beer is a very light straw pour with just a touch of haze and a decent egg-shell-white head. A little pepper crosses the nose along with sourdough bread, biscuit and light hops. Firm, tangy hops come through on the palate — Sterling and Perle — which is a nice combo of soft malt, fresh grain, spicy pepper and citrus. The finish is light and refreshing.