the five bottles of Kölsch I brought back from Cologne the other month. Before launching into the full-blown descriptive narrative, it’s worth noting that all five bottles were brands of Kölsch I’d not come across before and, as you may recall, I picked them all up at a supermarket close to our hotel.
So, without further ado, here are the five beers listed in the order I drank them in.
According to the label Reissdorf is a Privat-Brauerei, so I presume it is family-owned. Like most of the other beers below, this is one which I haven’t come across before on visits to Cologne.
Richmodis Kölsch 4.8%. At first I thought that this is another independently owned Kölsch brewer, but it turns out that Richmodis was bought out by Gaffel who are one of the larger independent brewers in Cologne, in 1998. The brand is now produced exclusively for the REWE supermarket chain which, surprise-surprise, is where I bought this bottle.
The beer comes in a 330ml bottle, is extremely pale in colour and is rather sweet in taste. It is still quite quaffable though, and reminds me quite a lot of Gaffel.
Sester Kölsch 4.8%. Another Kölsch packaged in a 500ml bottle. Less sweet than the other bottles sampled so far, but equally less hoppy.
The beer has a deep golden colour, with a sweet malty nose and pours with a light, fluffy head. A pleasant and easy drinking Kölsch, but nothing to get overly excited about.
Gilden Kölsch 4.8%. “Traditionally brewed, with a fine hop aroma”, if I have correctly translated the text on the back of the bottle.
This Kölsch is a bit more like it, being hoppier and less sweet, than some of the others. Pale golden and pours with a rather thin head, which soon dissipates in the glass. Nice and refreshing. A “big brand” Kölsch, brewed by the Kölner Verbund Brauereien.
Schreckenskammer Kölsch 5.0 %. I’m mightily relieved that the last of the five has turned out to be the best and most enjoyable, as I was starting to get more than a little fed-up with the style.
Schreckenskammer has a deep golden colour and has quite a bit more body than the other Kölsches sampled. It’s also marginally stronger at 5.0%, although I don’t think that an extra 0.25% alcohol is going to make much difference.
Situated opposite the church of St. Ursula, and first documented in 1442, Schreckenskammer was the oldest brewery in Cologne, until it was destroyed by a bombing raid in 1943. Production didn’t re-start until 1960 at the modern-looking, Zur Schreckenskammer brew-pub.
brew-house, but have been completely unaware of its existence, despite all the times I’ve been going to Cologne. What is even more annoying is it is situated just the other side of the rail tracks, virtually opposite the hotel we normally stay at, whilst attending the biennial dental exhibition which takes place in the city.
Back to the main point of the exercise which was a comparison between drinking Kölsch at home and enjoying a few in one of Cologne’s atmospheric beer halls.
Unsurprisingly the two don’t compare favourably, which is no reflection on the beers themselves, but more a case of missing the fast-drinking and social interaction associated with enjoying Kölsch on its home turf.
As stated before, Kölsch is a beer designed to be drunk fresh. Leaving a newly poured glass standing for any length of time allows the beer’s condition to dissipate, and is not conducive to enjoying it at its best. This is why it is usually served in small, plain cylindrical glasses known as Stangen, which typically hold just 20 cl of beer.
This isn’t very practical at home – I don’t have any Stangen for a start, and neither do I have a waiter bringing me a fresh glass of beer for as long as I wish to continue drinking. So, for the ultimate Kölsch experience, it really is necessary to take a trip to the Rhineland, and to Köln itself.