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German Kolsch

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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.
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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.


Brewed: 12-07-14
Kegged: 12-14-14
OG: 1.048
FG: 1.010
ABV: 5.0%
IBU: ~22
12 gallons


18lbs Pilsner Malt
1lb Wheat
8oz Melanoidin
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!

9 thoughts on “German Kolsch”
  1. Unknown 10.24.2015 on 11:47 PM Reply

    Awesome! I've been checking the blog every now and then hoping to find a new post and now is finally the day. I've recently started homebrewing and it's fair to say that your blog is and was a big inspiration. Your experiments with dry hopping lagers with different hops really got me excited for al the possibilities you have as a homebrewer. Looking forward to more posts! Tim

  2. Captain2Harted 10.26.2015 on 12:14 PM Reply

    This is a style that I have wanted to brew for quite a while, but it just keeps being forgotten about. Thanks for the info on the yeast strains, I'll have to brew this one soon. Glad to have you back! Any news on the new brew set-up?

  3. Scott 10.26.2015 on 2:41 PM Reply

    Thanks! Ya, I'm finally now getting planning what I want to do. As much as I'd like to keep my hybrid 220V electric system, it just really don't work logistically in the new house. I'm going to continue to use my 2gal HERMS heat exchanger to regular the mash temp, but I'll be going back to propane for my HLT.

    Speaking of which, I just bought a new 80QT concord kettle that I'm going to make my new Boil Kettle. The old 15gal (60QT) concord will become the new HLT.

    I'm drawing up some plans for a single tier brew stand right now. There will be some details to follow. =)

  4. Brett 10.27.2015 on 5:06 AM Reply

    So happy to see a new post! Hope you keep it up Scott!

  5. Jamie 10.28.2015 on 1:36 AM Reply

    Hey Scott — great to see you writing again! Have you ever had any luck with gelatin and the Wyeast 2565 to get it clear?

  6. Kirk Olson 10.28.2015 on 7:40 PM Reply

    I check your blog very frequently as my go to source for how I want to brew. Glad to see a new update!

    I'm really looking forward to brewing a Kolsch. During the summer I had a Kolsch at a local brewery and it had a bit of a blueberry note. It was very popular among our friends. Do you think using Mosaic hops in a Kolsch would work to get a similar taste?

    Great post. Keep up the top quality brewing/photos/blog.

  7. Maciej Biskup 11.20.2015 on 12:08 PM Reply

    Hi Scott, what temperature did you ferment this at? Did you go more for the lager or ale temperature side of the Kolsch yeast?

  8. Scott 11.23.2015 on 6:58 PM Reply

    Pretty low. 61F almost the entire way through. Near the end I let it climb to 68F

  9. Ricky 05.18.2016 on 8:02 PM Reply

    I brew a kolsch…ish ale for my wife usually use wyeast and cold crash in the keg , add gelitan force carb…… Let sit for a couple days….. Pull a couple pints of sludge. Within a few pints its crystal clear… Cheers !!!

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