Tuesday, 27 April 2010


A trip to Cologne - or Köln, to be geographically pedantic - brought me in close and frequent contact with the local brew, named Kölsch. Most of the time, if you offered me a bland lager, I'd say no, thanks, but for some reason this stuff hit the spot. 'Bland' is probably a little harsh, but there was something undeniably neutral about this pale coloured, barely carbonated and - in taste terms - hopless, maltless beverage. No matter: sitting in a German pub, or bier haus, as they insist on calling them, the Kölsch flowed like water. It was served in puny 20cl glasses (see above), which would ordinarily - in the UK at least - necessitate too-frequent trips to the bar. In Köln, by contrast, every time I emptied my glass, a bier haus man appeared to replace the empty with a fresh one, frothy head afoaming. Only when you placed a beer mat on top of the glass did the guy leave you alone. It was like beer on tap, except the tap was human.

As you can see from the photos, different bier hauses produce their own versions of Kölsch, and restaurants and bars will proffer their preferred brands. What you see here are in essence different interpretations of the same drink.
Personally, I preferred the first one I tried: Fruh Kolsch (below left), which was served from the 'fass' (barrel). Refreshing, utterly and completely quaffable, but with some kind of moreish vanilla (?) thing going on. Lovely.

Those who were particularly serious about their beer could order it by the metre at some places (see above right). This involved a rack of 10x20cl glasses lined up in a row like some stag-like provocation. We also found a place selling the stuff by the litre - three or five litres, to be precise - brought to your table in giant tube-like dispensers, with taps. Alas, when we made this discovery we were already too far gone to attempt one between the two of us. Next time, we'll return with reinforcements, and our only limits will be our appalling German vocabulary.

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