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Cologne and Kolsh

by Helen Mon Sep 24th, 2012 at 11:48:15 AM EST

I have wanted to visit Cologne for a long time. Sure, it's a famous city with a famous cathedral da dee dah etc etc, (see next diary) but for a dedicated beer hound it offers something far more important; a beer style which, while related to the Dusseldorfer Altbier style, is unique to the area.

I was going to do Cologne in one diary, but thought I should spread it onto two. So, touristy stuff in the nest one.


The distinguishing factor of the beer is that is has a very soft carbonation, which means that it goes flat very quickly. This has led to a tradition of the beer being served in small measures (200 ml), which are replaced by numerous and attentive serving staff as soon as the glass shows signs of being close to  empty. Seriously, the staff to customer ratio in cologne is excellent; I rarely had to wait long before being asked if I wanted another. Given the delays I had getting served in the rest of Germany, this was something to be appreciated.

However, it was noticeable that a lot of the breweries are using a gas pressure dispense system, a process which, while commercially attractive, leads to a higher carbonation. So, in several bars the beer is losing the very unique signature which differentiates it from other German beers.

That said, it is not true of all of them, as you can see below, the bar and lovely wooden barrel in the Pfaffen brewery tap on Neumarkt.

There are supposedly something like 25 differently branded Kolsh beers available. However market contraction in recent years has led to takeovers so that several of the brands are brewed by just 2 or 3 large brewery companies so that, gain, a sense of distinction is being lost.

However, I managed 13 or so in a couple of days and my short reviews of them are below;-

Fruh - soft and tasty with a lovely aftertaste.

Gaffel - Hmm, doesn't seem to have much flavour at all, nor aftertaste. The alcohol dominates as in a cheap pilsner.

Gilden - Has a nice hoppy zing to it which is very pleasant.

Hellers - It's okay, but it doesn't really do it for me

Muhlen - It's served a little too cold for my liking but it's nice with a mildly hoppy aftertaste.

Paffgen - The beer has an unusual herby tang, but it's perfectly nice

Peters - Very nice. Light coloured but fruity. A noticeably softer carbonation than the Gaffel.

Pfaffen - A pleasant beer. A good rounded flavour that balances the alcohol well.

Reissdorf - A genuine depth of malty flavour. I tried this in bottle as well and it was not as good. I suspect carbonation plays a part in that.

Schrekenskammer - It's soft and drinkable, but I'm not sure about the aftertaste.

Sion - Another thin beer low in aftertaste. Actually a little bit unpleasant imo.

Sunner - A bit bland if the truth be told. However, the green-hopped (ie fresh and undried) BioColonia is excellent

Weissbrau - Very nice, cloudy but assertive

I also traveled to the south of the City to go to the Brewing museum which is part of the Dom brewery. Sadly, I was greeted by a flattened building site when I arrived with the only sign a brewery was ever there, a simple board advertising the brewery museum, pointing to a pile of bricks. {sigh}

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Hmmm... trip down memory lane for me.

When I lived in the area, my favourite was Fruh, just a lovely every day beer. Pfaffen, Reissdorf and Weissbrau were others that I remember.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Sep 24th, 2012 at 02:02:18 PM EST
Sad to hear about the consolidation robbing the scene of diversity.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Sep 24th, 2012 at 02:05:17 PM EST
It's the same the world over. Most popular beers are just brands which are advertised relentlessly with no regard to the quality of the beer. Heineken, Carlsberg, Stella, Fosters, Amstell. Nobody cares what they taste like cos, by and large they all taste the same.

 In a tight market such as Cologne you'd really imagine that the breweries would make more effort, but despite the differences I note above, there really isn't much differentiation within the market.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Sep 24th, 2012 at 02:41:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, that's a tiny barrel. Was it a slow night?

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Tue Sep 25th, 2012 at 03:03:46 AM EST
It was about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. I just assume that small barrels and plenty of changeovers keep the beer fresh

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Sep 25th, 2012 at 03:55:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, I guess that's a slack time for them. The 8 o'clock barrels are much bigger.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Tue Sep 25th, 2012 at 11:14:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmm, have to come over and try :-))

how ya fixed for the xmas markets ?

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Sep 25th, 2012 at 11:28:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We're here all of December. Come on over!

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Tue Sep 25th, 2012 at 12:53:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tempting. You could always declare a meetup and see who bites

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Sep 25th, 2012 at 01:03:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now there's a thought.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Wed Sep 26th, 2012 at 05:01:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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