Well, it’s been long enough. While this brew wasn’t exactly a recent beer, it is still on tap at the house, and worthy of writing about. Today we’re talking about German Kolsch. This is one of those beer styles that isn’t exactly sexy, but I still really enjoy. We have a local brewery here in Tempe (Four Peaks) that makes a really fantastic, true-to-style, Kolsch. It’s a really nice beer to drink during the hot summer months here, and it’s been one of their staples for years. Aside from that, last year while in Europe we spent a couples days in Cologne, and I can’t explain how awesome it was to drink Kolsch in some the venerable beer halls there.
For those not acquainted, the beer halls in Cologne serve Kolsch in tall, tiny 200ml glasses, that they fill a dozen at a time from wooden barrels lifted to and fro with ceiling hoists. It’s pretty awesome to watch. The waiters walk around with a tray of a dozen or so beers, and simple swap your empties for full beers, leaving tick marks on your coaster to keep track of how many you’ve had. The only way to stop the never-ending stream of tiny glasses is to put your coaster on top of your glass when you’ve had enough. It’s definitely a fun, communal experience.
One of the interesting things about drinking beer while in Germany is that each town or region has a predominate style of beer: Alt in Dusseldorf, Kolsch in Cologne, Helles in Bavaria, etc. And while you would think it would get old drinking ten different Kolschs, the subtle differences between the beers become very apparent and very interesting. To my tastes, Paffgen was by far my favorite. It was a bit more hoppy than the average, and a bit crisper. It certainly didn’t hurt that their brewery was one of our favorite brewpubs in all of Europe, but that’s besides the point.
So that brings us back to the point of this post, I had been meaning to brew a quality Kolsch since we got back to the states last year. Although it was last December when this was brewed, some conditioning doesn’t hurt a beer like this. It’s been really nice to have on tap throughout the summer this year. I was definitely glad I stretched this batch to 10 gallons.
Kolsch recipes are really quite simple in practice. Some German Pilsner malt, Hallertauer or Spalt hops, maybe a pinch of Munich malt, and Kolsch yeast. In my effort to make something similar to Paffgen, I found more than a few people mentioning that Wyeast 2565 is their house yeast. Most people mention that WLP029 is Fruh’s yeast. While Fruh was probably my second favorite Kolsch, it didn’t stack up to Paffgen in my opinion. Unfortunately, I absolutely hate brewing with 2565. It’s the biggest top-cropping yeast I’ve ever worked with. It climbs like no other, and clogs airlocks and blow-off tubes with no remorse. It also has the annoying habit of being incredibly powdery, which makes getting clear beer much harder. In the end, practicality won out over flavor, and I whipped up a giant starter of WLP029 to pitch into 10 gallons.
The recipe I settled in on was pretty simple: highly modified German Pils, a little wheat, a splash of Melanoidin malt, and that’s it. As I’m leaning this beer towards the hoppier end of Kolsch I decided to use Hallertau hops. They have a really pleasant aroma when used in moderation. That’s really about it as far as the recipe is concerned. The recipe for a beer like this really rather uncomplicated.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember much about the brew day for this beer as it was pushing ten months ago. I know it was a 60 minute (single infusion) mash with a 90 minute boil. I’m assuming the weather was nice out if anyone cares =) This really fermented out quickly. I ramped up the temp near the end of fermentation to help things finish up.
18lbs Pilsner Malt
Mash @ 149*
3oz Hallertau @ 60
0.5oz Hallertau @ 30
WLP029 – German Kolsch Yeast
After a week or two on tap, this beer was finally fully carbed, but it really didn’t hit it’s peak until about 8 weeks in the keg had passed. There’s nothing like cold conditioning lagers and lager-like beers. The funny thing is, now 10 months later, the beer still tastes pretty much the same. The delicate hop flavor has faded a bit, but otherwise it remains pretty much unchanged. The aroma is a really nice balance between pilsner malt and noble hops. The appearance is crystal clear, mostly to do with the long time it’s spent in the keg by now. The head is bright white and clings to the glass as you drink. The flavor is what you would expect. That almost sweet maltiness that comes from pils malt with a nice balancing bitterness. There isn’t much hop flavor left at this point, but the beer is still rather crisp and refreshing.
So how close did this turn out to Paffgen? Not exact. It’s still a fantastic kolsch though. My hunch says that if I really want to brew something identical to Paffgen, I’m going to have to use WY2565, which I absolutely hate using. But for now, I’m nursing the last couple gallons of kolsch while the weather is still nice. Cheers!