It’s Friday night, and you’ve been tasked with bringing beer to dinner with friends. You strategically grab styles you know will make everyone happy — even your one friend who is deemed the pickiest of beer drinkers. You grab a stellar lineup of IPAs, sours, and ales, but this time, you throw a Kölsch ale in the mix. It might be the wildcard in the group, but there’s a lot to love and a lot to be said about this style of beer.
Partially bready, with a crisp, smooth profile, the Kölsch is an arguably underrated beer with a fascinating history.
Raise a glass for the humble Kölsch!
What Does a Kölsch Taste Like and What’s so Great About it?
The Kölsch made its grand entrance into the world several hundred years ago when bottom-fermenting lagers rose to popularity. But in Cologne, Germany, (Kölsch’s origin place) brewers were mostly making top-fermenting beers at the time — like the pale ales and wheat beers we love to sip on year-round. However, the increasing infiltration of lager-style beers made Cologne brewers rethink their devotion to top-fermenting beers.
So as a happy medium, Cologne brewers combined their beloved top-fermenting style with the new bottom-fermenting beer style. And there you have it — the noble Kölsch, a top-fermented beer born from the great tradition of ales and then cold conditioned in the style of lagers to give us a beer that’s a perfect marriage of both.
If you’ve ever had that moment looking at a brewery menu where you’re frozen with what to choose, go for a Kölsch ale. You get the hoppy goodness you want from an ale but also the light, refreshing endnotes you expect from a lager. It’s a perfect balance between two of beer’s most cherished styles.
Kölsch vs. Pilsner
The battle of Kölsch vs Pilsner is one of the most talked about subjects amongst beer connoisseurs. You may have already been a part of this debate or at least watched your friends stubbornly argue their side. Are these beers the same? Or are they different? It’s time to get the story straight.
At first glance, you could say that these two beer styles have a lot in common. After all, they look similar, with a straw yellow to a pale golden color and a white head. But the kicker is that pilsners tend to taste dryer and more bitter, while Kölsches are more subtly complex, creamy and soft. Then if you push flavor aside completely and get down to the roots, you’ll find that the foundational difference between these two is that kölsch is an ale whereas pilsner is a lager. And that’s all thanks to the different yeasts used in the brewing process.
The Best Food Pairings for Kölsch Style Beers
Figuring out what pairs best with beer can be a tricky business. For some lucky souls out there, knowing how to combine flavor profiles is a natural gift. But for the rest of us, we go back and forth down grocery store aisles debating on this kind of snack or that one until we just pick something out of frustration. If you’re saying “yep that’s totally me,” never fear! Here are a few yummy suggestions for munchies that are deliciously tasty with a nice ice cold Kölsch ale.
Cheese and crackers are a classic party favorite. Cheeses that are creamy, like brie or camembert, or cheeses that have a little bit of spice, like Monterray Jack, go great with the peppery, floral hops of a Kölsch.
Because of the light crispness of the Kölsch beer style, salads make a great food accompaniment. They’re light, flavorful, and best of all, versatile for the seasons. In the warmer months, jazz them up with your favorite berries or seasonal fruits, and in the winter, roast some butternut squash or sweet potatoes to top them off.
Kölsch’s slight hoppiness makes it a great pairing for light fish dishes and seafood too. Grill some salmon with a drizzle of lemon or cook up something meatier like halibut with herbed butter. Either way, you can’t miss!
Try a Hi-Wire Brewing Kölsch Ale
Now that we’ve gotten your stomach growling, it’s time to find the perfect Kölsch! We especially love a Kölsch ale for its clean, light crispness and sweet undertones — it’s like summertime in a glass. And the best part is, even when it’s cold outside, a Kölsch will make you feel like you’re back on the beach. So, here are a few of our go-to’s that we think you’ll love too.
#1. RAD Kölsch
We bring you a new small batch offering donning the namesake of our new location in Asheville NC’s River Arts District. This classic and clean stand-by is a light beer you can sit down and enjoy multiple pints with friends. Brewed for community tables and relaxing after long weeks, this pale golden-colored crusher lends pleasing notes of toasted biscuits with a slight bite and crisp finish.
#2. Soda Pop Kölsch
This classic and clean stand-by which dons the name of our neighborhood in Wilmington, NC, is a light beer you can sit down and enjoy multiple pints with friends. Brewed for community tables and relaxing after long weeks, this pale golden-colored crusher lends pleasing notes of toasted biscuits with a slight bite and crisp finish.
If you’re in the Wilmington area, take a stroll down to our taproom to try a fresh pour of Soda Pop Kölsch!
Come try a Kölsch style ale at Hi-Wire Brewing
If you’re new to the Kölsch club, welcome! We hope you enjoy one of our tasty brews. And if you’ve been a Kölsch lover all along, we hope you have fun trying some of these Hi-Wire favorites! Whatever Hi-Wire taproom you choose, be sure to check our taproom menus to see if these beers are flowing at a location near you.
If you’re an Asheville local or just visiting, come experience our Cologne-style Kölsch Service at our RAD Beer Garden happening every Thursday from 3-10pm.
Here’s how it works…
#1. Order your first Kölsch at the bar. It’ll be served in a 7oz traditional Kölsch glass called a “stange.”
#2. Take a seat wherever you like. Don’t forget your coaster!
#3. After that, we’ll keep the Kölsch coming right to your table. No need to get up or request a refill. We’ll mark how many you’ve had so far on your coaster.
#4. Ready to go? Put that coaster on top of your glass to let us know you’d like to close out. Each 7oz pour is $3 each. Don’t forget to tip your köbe (AKA bartender)!