BEER 101: KOLSCH vs GROLSCH
This post is inspired by several knowledgeable beer apprecionados I have spoken to recently about Kolsch beer - and assumed I was saying Grolsch, a brand they were more familiar with. Time to clear things up.
Kolsch is a style of beer, invented in Koln (Cologne) Germany in 874 AD in a CASTLE. Or so legend has it, but anyways you can still travel to this castle and drink lots of Kolsch beer!
The word Kolsch is an adjective in the local dialect, meaning typical of the city’s style (think Cologne-ish). Example: “have you been to the Koln castle? It’s uber Kolsch!” Since it is a beer typified by its region and a long standing cooperative of brewers, there are only 20 recognized Kolsch breweries in the world, all located within Koln. This appellation is similar to the strict standards held and high accolades awarded to Trappist breweries, or Champagne wines.
In the 1800s, Kolsch was standardized among its producers as a golden and hoppy beer. This product served as the Germans’ bitchslap to the Bohemians, who were pumping out the iconic Czech Pilsners that were all the rage during the belle-époque.
Which brings us to the differences in the two styles. Both have a similar straw coloring, but use different grains, water, and hops. The most important style difference, however, is the yeast. Pilsners are lagers, which means they use a bottom fermenting yeast strain and are fermented at cooler temperatures. Kolsch are ales, which means they use a top fermenting yeast strain and are fermented at warmer temperatures. Kolsch are unique from other ales because they are lagered, or aged at a cool temperature post fermentation. Confusing, I know but stay with me here. We can think of Kolsch as a lagered ale.
If you need rapid differentiation assistance next time you are at the bar, you will notice a difference in the glassware used. Kolsch are traditionally served in 6 oz straight and narrow glasses. Pilsner glasses are traditionally tall and fluted, but are commonly served in pint glasses across north America.
SO why all the Pilsner talk? Well, it so happens that Pilsner is the flagship style of Grolsch Brewery. This brewery is located in Grol, Netherlands. Pop question: based on what we know about Koln and Kolsch, what do you think Grolsch means?
Grolsch bottles are easily identified by their swing tops, making them
popular for re use by homebrewers. One last thing you should know is that the brewery was purchased by SABMiller in 2008.
Taste and Try: both styles are excellent to try, and Victory’s Prima Pils is my rec for regional flavor, which can be tried side by side the imported Pilsner Urquell.
If you are in Canada, you must try the delicious Lugtread Ale by Beau’s. My friends in the states should seek out the Kolsch by Captain Lawrence. If you want to compare these to an imported original, I recommend the Gaffel Kolsch.