After brewing and sampling beers over the last decade, I would have to say that my favorite summer ale is the Kolsch. This light colored, low hopped ale has the perfect balance for that 90 plus degree day. Whether sitting by the pool, relaxing at the beach, or even after doing all of that dreaded yard work, this ale is so refreshing.
So what exactly is a Kolsch? It is an ale that takes on several characteristics of a lager. This beer is best fermented at 60F to help it take on those lager notes, which adds a little more body to the beer, without having to ferment for six weeks like a traditional Lager. The ABV ranges from 3.5% up to around 5.5%. It has a light SRM ( standard reference measure ) similar to a Pale ale. The IBU ( international bittering units ) range from 20-30, which is slightly less bitter than your typical pale ale as well.
A little history about the Kolsch. Kolsch originated in Cologne, Germany as far back as the 1600s. During this time there were several breweries using bottom-fermenting yeast (lager yeast). These lager-style beers were threatening several businesses in the region, so Cologne made their breweries swear an oath to only use top-fermenting yeast (ale yeast) to combat against this newer lager yeast. Some of these breweries that swore the oath would use an ale yeast to start their fermentation, but would cellar their beers on top of a lager yeast to get that more full-bodied beer. To this day the Kolsch still must follow the Reinheitsgebot (German purity law) and can only be called a Kolsch if it is brewed in the Cologne region. Some of my more favorite Kolsch brands are: Suner, Gaffel, and Reissdorf. If you can get these fresh, they are by far some of the best.
Here is a great recipe I learned from a brewer who studied in Germany and worked for the Ayinger Brewery: 5 gallon batch
Pilsner malt – 9.25 lbs
Dark Wheat – .5 lbs
Hallertau – 1 oz for 60 mins
Hallertau – .5oz for 30 mins
Hersbrucker – 1 oz for 10mins
WLP029 ( Kolsch yeast)
Combine the Pilsner and Dark Wheat malt and do a single infusion mash for 60 mins. Drain and collect the wort. Bring to a boil and add the specific hops for the time included. After boiling, bring the wort down to around 60F – 65F and pitch yeast. Ferment for 5 -7 days. Bottle or Keg your beer and enjoy.