what is a kolsch?
Not really a tough question. However, after recently being put on the spot during my hopeful-employment beer quiz, I kinda failed to answer this question. Or at least answer it very well.
So, let me tell you about the Kolsch I drank this weekend to celebrate the Fourth of July at my family’s cabin on Big Sandy Lake.
The origin of the Kolsch goes way back to the German region Koln (picture two little dots over the o — we say Cologne) and the year 1254, give or take a few. They got fussy, like the french over the name and product Champage, and earned the right to call their beer Kolsch, and to exclude other breweries from doing so.
Setting itself apart from the Pilsner, Kolsch is a top-fermented beer using up to 15% wheat along with Pilsner malt. The effect is a fairly simple beer despite Cologne’s claw-like grip on the name.
“The aromatics are a light melange of hops, malt, and fruit. Bitterness is restrained, but the palate is light-bodied and bone dry, with a soft malt flavor in the center.” – G. Oliver “It is an oddity, almost a hybrid — an ale made, like all ales, with top-fermenting yeasts, yet stored cold like a lager for a month or two. The result is the sparkling, subtle beer.” – The Pour
The Kayak Kolsch really fits the bill, both for the style guidelines, and for my holiday weekend.
As the heat, barbecue and pyrotechnics kept rolling on, though, I was seriously craving a shandy, and by Friday night, my patience was rewarded. After prodding our waitress a bit, I discovered that Big SandyResort had a few bottles of Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy stowed away, even though it wasn’t on the menu (we were seated under a giant blue Summer Shandy umbrella, after all).
That light, crisp citrus meeting evenly with a cracker-like malt was just what I was looking for. The style has a sturdy history throughout England where a blond or other light beer is mixed with lemonade. Is it a masterpiece? Eh, probably not, but this is a seriously underrated beer, especially for long summer days on the lake.
If you’re curious about some of the best beers to drink in July, I’d say a Kolsch or a Shandy will serve you well. They are two of the most refreshing brews out there (and this is coming from a true dark beer lover).
Cheers to the smell of banana boat, improvised boat anchors, and singeing an eyebrow for the perfect s’more.
Sources: NY Times The Pour, Garret Oliver’s A Brewmaster’s Table