Author Topic: Tell me about Kolsch please  (Read 4976 times)

Offline gmac

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Tell me about Kolsch please
« on: June 27, 2011, 01:20:18 PM »
I'm looking for something new to brew and I will be picking up a few different yeast next week when I drive close enough to my not quite local HBS.  I'm considering a saison now that it's getting warmer and I may be the Wyeast French Saison yeast but I am seeing a lot of Kolsch on here and I really don't know much about the style.  I'm gathering it is a German ale from Cologne but other than that I don't know much about it.

How is it as a summer beer?  I can look up the BJCP guidelines but is this a beer that you'd consider a session beer?  What makes it special as opposed to other styles?  Is this something you usually have on tap or something that you do once in a while? Can you give me a good, commonly found commercial example of the style?
Just looking for alternative styles to try. 
Thanks

Offline majorvices

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Re: Tell me about Kolsch please
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2011, 01:54:30 PM »
Kolsch is a good session beer. It's very clean and light. It can tend to have some subdued apple and or pear and or chardonnay esters. I try and keep a kolsch on tap as regularly as possible - its very much my favorite light style beer, and a good crossover style for BMC drinkers who swear they "don't like craft beer".

As far as commercial examples, a lot of brew pubs have them on as their gateway beer. Some are indicative of the style, some are not. Reissdorf Kolsch is the only imported kolsch I see here from Germany. It's a fair example.

You have basically two yeasts that are available to choose from, WLP029 and WY2565. Both make good kolsch with the WL strain being a little more tempermental at cooler temps though much easier to clear during conditioning and the WY strain with a little more apple and pear ester than the WL strain. In both cases you need to approximate closer to a lager pitch (see the pitching alc at www.mrmalty.com and pull down the "hybrid" menu)

Here's one of my Kolsch recipes


Bergwald Kolsch

12 Gallons
OG 1.050-1.052
IBU 23

20 lbs German Pils
2.75lbs Wheat Malt

.75oz Magnum (14.9) 60 min
1oz Mittlefruh (3) 30 min
.5oz Mittlefruh (3) 10 min

Kolsch yeast Starter or slurry (I make a 2.5 liter stirred starter or slurry from a previous batch. be sure to pitch enough yeast)

Boil 90 minutes to alleviate concerns about DMS

Aerate and pitch at 56 degrees. Ferment 58-60 for 3 days and then let rise to 62-64 until finished.
Keith Y.
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Offline hubie

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Re: Tell me about Kolsch please
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2011, 01:59:07 PM »
It is one of my favorite styles.  It is basically an ale fermented with lager yeast, or at least that is the simple explanation.  Think of a very clean tasting blonde ale with perhaps some slight fruitiness to it.  It is very easy to drink, which is why some people love it as a summer beer.  I brew mine all malt, but some recipes use wheat as well.  You want to ferment it cool, like around 58 to 62 F if you can, which is why I brew mine in early spring when I can still have low 60's for temps in my basement.  If I had a temperature controlled fermentation box, I would brew this year round.  It is a 4 to 5 percent beer, so it can be quaffed as a session beer.

For US commercial beers, the BJCP lists: Goose Island Summertime, Alaska Summer Ale, Harpoon Summer Beer, New Holland Lucid, Saint Arnold Fancy Lawnmower, Capitol City Capitol Kölsch, Shiner Kölsch

I haven't tried any of those myself.

Offline majorvices

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Re: Tell me about Kolsch please
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2011, 02:03:17 PM »
It is basically an ale fermented with lager yeast, or at least that is the simple explanation.  

No, that's not true at all. It needs to be fermented with a kolsch yeast. If you use a lager at ale temps you are not making a kolsch. Some brew pubs use a clean fermenting ale yeast such as the Chico strain and call it a "kolsch" but it doesn;t hit the mark. In that case it is really just a blonde or psudo lager.
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Offline gmac

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Re: Tell me about Kolsch please
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2011, 02:28:14 PM »

You have basically two yeasts that are available to choose from, WLP029 and WY2565. Both make good kolsch with the WL strain being a little more tempermental at cooler temps though much easier to clear during conditioning and the WY strain with a little more apple and pear ester than the WL strain.

Can you expand a bit on what you mean by "tempermental"?  I've never used either but I find myself being more drawn to WLP yeast than Wyeast for some reason.  In general I think I've had better success with their yeast but I don't want to buy the wrong one just because others have worked out well.  Of course, there is also the question of which my HBS has in stock as I haven't yet checked.


Offline hubie

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Re: Tell me about Kolsch please
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2011, 02:36:41 PM »
It is basically an ale fermented with lager yeast, or at least that is the simple explanation.  

No, that's not true at all. It needs to be fermented with a kolsch yeast. If you use a lager at ale temps you are not making a kolsch. Some brew pubs use a clean fermenting ale yeast such as the Chico strain and call it a "kolsch" but it doesn;t hit the mark. In that case it is really just a blonde or psudo lager.

In my haste I had mixed up two over-generalized explanations that get tossed around (the kolsch is the ale that tastes like a lager, and the California Common is the lager yeast fermented at ale temperatures).  Dumb gaffes aside, I agree, you really need to use a kolsch yeast, but you need to ferment it cool (or, at least I have found that I need to ferment it cool).  I see people who say they ferment them in the upper 60's and they are happy with their results, but when I have done that (trying to make one in the summer), it doesn't come out as clean tasting as I would prefer.

Offline majorvices

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Re: Tell me about Kolsch please
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2011, 02:43:22 PM »

You have basically two yeasts that are available to choose from, WLP029 and WY2565. Both make good kolsch with the WL strain being a little more tempermental at cooler temps though much easier to clear during conditioning and the WY strain with a little more apple and pear ester than the WL strain.

Can you expand a bit on what you mean by "tempermental"?  I've never used either but I find myself being more drawn to WLP yeast than Wyeast for some reason.  In general I think I've had better success with their yeast but I don't want to buy the wrong one just because others have worked out well.  Of course, there is also the question of which my HBS has in stock as I haven't yet checked.



It tends to stall near the end if below 62. Not too hard of a problem to fix, just raise the temp to 66-68 near the end. Honestly, I think I may prefer the WY version better. The nice thing about the WL version is that it clears faster. Both make great kolsches.

Hubie: I thought maybe you were confusing North German Alt, which is often fermented with a lager yeast (as opposed to Dussledorf alt which is not.)
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Offline hubie

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Re: Tell me about Kolsch please
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2011, 03:16:50 PM »
Hubie: I thought maybe you were confusing North German Alt, which is often fermented with a lager yeast (as opposed to Dussledorf alt which is not.)

No, just typing in haste as I was distracted trying to figure out (Google) what is the commercial kolsch that I get on the East coast, and I still can't remember.  I thought it might be from Southamption, but it turns out that it is their Alt that I get.

I did just pick up the new Sam Adams East/West Kolsch.  The one I had I thought it was OK, but I like mine much better.  I don't know if they sell them separately, but I had to grab their 12-pk summer selection to get it.  The plus is that it also comes with their new saison (haven't tried it yet), but you also are stuck with a couple of their Sam Adams Lites.

Offline gmac

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Re: Tell me about Kolsch please
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2011, 08:35:55 PM »
I don't have any of your suggested hops right now although I can get some.  Just before I do would regular Hallertau work?  I don't know the origin, probably domestic.  I can get Mittlefruh (I think...) but i've got several ounces of regular Hallertau so I thought I'd check first.  I'm going to try your recipe and 1/2 everything for 6 gallons (23L fermenter).  Any problems with this approach?  I don't have Magnum either but I assume any high alpha hop would likely substitute ok.
Thanks

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Re: Tell me about Kolsch please
« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2011, 04:16:46 AM »
I can't remember if "Regular old Hallertauer" is Mittelfruh or Hersbrucker but they are interchangeable AFAIC. I'm sure there's differences but I couldn't most likely pick them out. I also enjoy some of the American "noble" type hops such as Crystal and Liberty. Some people prefer Perle and Tettnanger. It's really open to your interpretation.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Tell me about Kolsch please
« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2011, 04:28:07 AM »
Regular Hallertau is often Hallertau Gold or Hallertau Tradition.  When I want Mittelfruh, I make sure I order that.  Once you get tuned into the distinct floral aroma of Mittelfruh, you know it when you have it. 

Tradition is not far off.  One from the PNW that I like that has a close aroma to Mittlefruh is Vanguard.
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Offline nateo

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Re: Tell me about Kolsch please
« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2011, 05:10:46 AM »
Al Haunold ran the OSU hop development program (or something like that) in the 80s and 90s. He released all four of the Hallertau Mf mimics: Ultra, Liberty, Crystal, and Mt. Hood. He liked Mt. Hood the best, fwiw. Ultra seems harder to find than the others, but Crystal and Mt. Hood shouldn't be too hard to find.

Vanguard is another good noble-ish hop, as hopfen pointed out.
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Offline akr71

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Re: Tell me about Kolsch please
« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2011, 05:26:33 AM »
... and a good crossover style for BMC drinkers who swear they "don't like craft beer".

As far as commercial examples, a lot of brew pubs have them on as their gateway beer.

+1
That's why I call mine Tor Kolsch  ;)  (German for Gateway - at least according to Google Translate)
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Offline ukolowiczd

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Re: Tell me about Kolsch please
« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2011, 06:57:03 AM »
Kolsch is a fantastic style and much better homebrewed as a lot of commercial varieties just use house yeast strains that don't give that fantastic flavor. I definitely agree with everyone here that the Kolsch yeast is super important. It adds this beautiful malty almost honeyed quality much like real Czech pilsner to the beer that is so smooth and drinkable. Also it's so easy to make 90% pilsner malt, 10% wheat, 1 hop addition of german hops like Spalt or Hallertau for an IBU of around 20. Definitely keep the IBU's in check as you don't want to out compete the delicious yeast flavor.

My only new addition to this post is what to eat with a keg of kolsch. Bring a couple bottles of "junk" beer that's been sitting in your fridge since December up to a boil. Put in some raw bratwurst. Take off heat and leave for 5 or more minutes. Grill at lowest heat for 20-25 minutes. Toast some buns. Add sauerkraut and a spicy mustard. Drink kolsch. 

Offline gmac

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Re: Tell me about Kolsch please
« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2011, 07:04:10 AM »
Thanks all. So the yeast is king, the hops are negotiable as long as they are noble type and not too bitter.  Now, next adaptation question.  Can it work with 2-row instead of pilsner?  Will it just be a shade darker or will it alter the character?  For this first one I will get pilsner malt since I'll be at the LHBS getting yeast but I usually have a 55 lb sack of 2-row on the go most of the time.  I find pilsner just too expensive so I cheap out and go with 2-row which for the styles I usually brew is fine.