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Style Profile: Kölsch

Dance in the Sun Kölsch

“Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair...” ― Susan Polis Schutz

Kölsch is one of those beautiful and distinct expressions of the community that spawned it, a continuance of local brewing traditions tied to the area since the Middle Ages. It is one of the miracles of the history of beer that filtered through the years this adamant, hearty and prideful community of Rhinelanders has produced one of the most whimsical, light, delicate, and subtle styles on the planet.

The history of Kölsch brewing begins with Köln’s position as one of the trade centers of the rich and fertile region of western Germany, and the combination of secular and monastic brewing operations were united and unionized in guild systems as early as the 14th century. Köln always viewed itself as distanced from the traditional political capitals of nations throughout the years, as a cultural and ideological outpost. This is reflected in its refusal to conform with the trajectory of mainstream German brewing. 

Bottom-fermenting traditions became all the rage in Germany around the turn of the 17th century, but the year-round climate of Köln was not conducive to this method of brewing centuries before the advent of refrigeration. Golden lagers saw an incredible (and, as it would turn out, permanent) surge in popularity, and so to keep up with demand certain stylistic changes were made, without sacrificing the integrity of the original.  

A combination of the warm fermentation temperatures characteristic of ale yeasts and cool conditioning periods was the result. The beers resulting from these hybrid methods were the progenitors of two of Germany’s most delicious historical styles- the pale Kölsch of Köln and the darker Altbier of Düsseldorf. These developed in earnest when technology allowed us the possibility of heating and drying malts to many different colors and characteristics. 

Kölsch fiercely resisted the imposition of a bottom-fermenting tradition, and we have their resilience to thank for what might be the most seamless mixture of an incredibly complex flavor profile and leisurely drinkability. 

Our Lied of honor to this remarkable German brew, Dance in the Sun, aims to faithfully represent the steadfast reportage of that old city’s old tradition. Subtle fruit- a whisper of apple, pear, and white grape- are melded into a crisp sipper with the delicate pingings of spicy and floral Noble hops. 

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