In Cologne drinking a Kolsch is far more than just drinking a beer. It has its own entire unique drinking culture and language.
Dangerously Drinkable and the Serving Tradition
Kolsch beer is only brewed in Cologne and with around 30 different Kolsch breweries you will always find one, or if not more to cater for your taste. Roger Protz himself calls this beer “dangerously drinkable” so you know you’re onto something good.
It’s a light coloured, top-fermented beer, 4.8%abv and is served in the Kolsch glass or ‘Stange’ which itself is a unique serving of 0,2cl in a tall, elegant and straight sided glass which perfectly shows off this fine beer style.
The beer is mostly drunk the in an original “Brauhaus” (the traditional German pub where the beer is brewed). There, the “Kobes” (Kolsch waiters) carry their trays of beer through the bars of Cologne and, unprompted, replace the empty glasses of their customers with fresh beer. It is understood that this will continue until a customer places a beer mat on top of their glass, signifying no more beer is required, and then the marks on either the beer mat or the table are totted up so the bill can be paid.
The Kolsch Convention
Kolsch will remain Kolsch. The Kolsch breweries in Cologne and its immediate surroundings agreed this on March 6th 1986 to protect the German beer speciality. The Kolsch Convention was signed by all the directors of the Kolsch breweries. The ruling means that Kolsch is not only a type of beer, but also a designation of origin. The guidelines specify that a true Kolsch is a top-fermented, light-coloured, clear, highly fermented, hoppy full ale and is brewed according to the German Purity Law of 1516.
Popular Kolsch Brewhouses in Cologne
No other German city has as many Brewhouses & Bars per capita as Cologne.
Gaffel am Dom
This brewhouse is in the middle of Cologne, near the Main Station. The brewhouse and pub all in one “Gaffel am Dom” is located on the northern side of the Cologne cathedral. This is a typical brewhouse serving cuisine and more.
In the Second World War it was completely destroyed, but reconstructed at the same place, the Sion Brauhaus is located between the cathedral and old city.
This one is located in the middle of the old city. The atmosphere is good and they serve a wonderful Kolsch.
Brauhaus zur Malzmühle
Since 1858 the “Brauhaus zur Malzmühle” is one of the most popular brewhouse restaurants and is also a traditional meeting point for friends of the Kolsch culture. Enjoy the local brewhouse cuisine with lots of typical Cologne specialties. It also boasts a wonderful Hotel above the brewhouse where I frequently stay when visiting the city.
The typical brewhouse cuisine is Drinking “Kolsch” and eating “Himmel un Aad” (Heaven and earth). Here are some other local specialities you can eat in Cologne:
Halver Hahn – It’s a rye roll with Dutch cheese, butter and mustard.
Himmel un Aad (Heaven and earth) – A mixture of apple pieces (heaven) and mashed potatoes (earth)
Flonz – “Blutwurst”, black pudding
Kolsch Caviar – black pudding (Flonz), rye roll and onions
Rheinischer Soorbrode – sometimes original horsemeat, but in general a beef dish with a special sauce of raisins, dumpling and red cabbage
Hammche – boiled knuckle of pork, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut
Schweinshaxe – Roast pork knuckle
Halber Meter Bratwurst – half a metre of original German bratwurst
Haxenhaus zum Rheingarten
In 1231 the Haxenhaus was mentioned for the first time in documents as “Huus am Bootermaate”. Since then, the old tavern has served food and drink to the locals and the passing trade of Cologne.
Situated on the banks of the Rheine in the old part of the town, the building is now a protected monument in the city and is famous for serving Schweinshaxe, Halber Meter Bratwurst and Kolsch by the meter in specially designed wooden carriers.
Papa Joes Biersalon “Klimperkasten”
No visit to Cologne is complete without a visit to this quirky and vibrant bar in the Alter Markt. On entering this establishment you feel like you have gone back in time with is dark wooden smoke-stained interior, it’s roaring-twenties look, with a unique collection of film projectors, game machines and automatic instruments from the twenties, which play hourly.
It’s cosy and chaotic at the same time. Never boring…
Doesn’t look much from outside, but on entering you will find a small interior with a warm friendly atmosphere. Horst the owner always makes you feel welcome, serves up reasonably priced drink, while you mix with friendly Cologne locals. What a perfect way to end your night in the City.
I love this City, I go back at least once a year, it’s my favourite German City. There is no other German City where a beer has such an impact on the culture. Cologne is Kolsch, Kolsch is Cologne and the residents are very proud of that fact. If you have never visited the place, put it on your bucket list, you will not be disappointed. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do?
“The Bier Hooligan” – Check out his YouTube page here!
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