Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford: Kölsch a nice, clean, crisp beer for the spring season

By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers

It looks as if spring weather is finally here, and this week I would like to talk about a traditional spring beer known as Kölsch.

The term Kölsch was first used in 1918 to describe the beer that had been brewed by the Sünner brewery. It was slow in popularity in the first half of the 20th century, when bottom-fermented beers (lagers) prevailed in the rest of Germany. Prior to World War II, Cologne, the city where Kölsch was brewed, had more than 40 breweries. This was reduced to two during the devastation of the war.

After World War II, many of the breweries managed to re-establish themselves, but Kölsch was still not as popular as its lager competitors. However, in the 1960s, Kölsch began to rise in popularity in the Cologne beer market, which spread across Germany. Visitors to Cologne also liked this refreshing beer, and demand grew.

In adherence to the Kölsch convention of 1986, Kölsch may not be brewed outside the Cologne region. Thirteen breweries produce Kölsch in and around Cologne, and about 10 other breweries in Germany produce beer in Kölsch style, but do not call it Kölsch — because they are not members of the convention. Many American microbreweries brew a Kölsch-style beer.

Schlafly Kölsch is brewed by the St. Louis Brewery in St. Louis. According to their website: “Our Kölsch is unique to the Schlafly brewery because Ulrike, a native of Köln and wife of brewery co-founder Tom Schlafly, connected Schlafly Beer with the Gaffel Brewery of Cologne. Our Kölsch is a classic ale that uses a centuries-old yeast strain sourced from a famous Kölsch brewer in Cologne, Germany. Schlafly Beer won the Gold Medal for Best German-style Kölsch in the World Beer Cup in 2010.”

Kölsch is traditionally served around 50 degrees Fahrenheit in long, thin, cylindrical 7-ounce or 14-ounce glasses known as a Stange (pole). The pour is a straw yellow color that is crystal clear and full of carbonation. A foamy, full two-finger head of creamy white develops and slowly dissipates to about a one-finger depth with good lacing present. This is a real nice-looking beer.

The aroma or nose, as it is sometimes called, starts off with a touch of grainy malt that mingles with a lemon/grassy hop presence and very slight hint of sulfur. The sulfur is most likely from the yeast strain and not out of style characteristic.

The taste is much like the aroma starting out at the front, with grainy malt and hints of bread that gives way to a citrusy lemon of the hops and finishing dry, with a hint of apple that is slightly tart and sour.

The mouth feel is dry and thin bodied, with plenty of carbonation bite, which is pleasing on the tongue.

Overall, this is a nice, clean, crisp beer for a warm spring day or evening that is pleasant to drink and with an ABV of 4.8 percent that allows you to enjoy a few of these at a sitting. This is one of my wife’s favorite beers, and fortunately for her (and the rest of us), it is available year-round.


Michael Sears is president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a homebrewing club dedicated to the art of finely crafted beer. The club meets the first Wednesday of each month at Thunder Bay Grille on East State Sreet. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to If you have comments or recommendations, please contact Mike at

From the April 30-May 6, 2014, issue

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