Top 10 beers of the world: #7 – Kölsch


Eau de Cologne is not the only magical liquid that Germany’s fourth biggest city is famous for producing, as anyone who has tried Kölsch will tell you. It’s not a brand of beer but a variety served throughout the city. It makes the top ten for its great taste, history and drinking ritual.

Served in 0.2 litre test-tube like glasses called Stangen, a Kölsch crawl through the bars of Cologne’s old town is great fun. There’s no need to queue at a bar – Kölsch waiters (called Köbes) circulate with fresh glasses of beer on dedicated Kölsch trays known as Kränze.

If you want a beer, call a waiter over – he will put a tally mark on a beer mat every time you order one. When you’ve had enough, simply put the beer mat on top of your glass, pay up and move to the next bar. It’s a pale, almost see through “top-fermented” beer – i.e. – the yeast rises rather than sinks. Kölsch is a very easy drinking beer anyway, but because the glasses are so small it’s ideal for a quick crawl.

Drinkers in these parts take their Kölsch seriously, as you might have guessed by the special words for the glasses, waiters and trays. In fact, the 1986 Kölsch Convention decrees that Kölsch cannot be brewed outside of Cologne. I can’t recall which brand of Kölsch I drank on my visit, but have seen 0.50 litre bottles of Früh sold in off-licences in the UK – although drinking it from a bottle surely defeats the object?


For anyone wondering about the name, Cologne is known as Köln in Germany. Kölsch is not only the seventh best beer in the world, but also the name of the local Cologne dialect.

Categories: GermanyTags: , ,


  1. I used to spend a lot of time in Cologne for work, and being able to head out in the evenings for a few tiny glasses of Kolsch made it all worthwhile! I even took a few cases back to the UK once, but as you say, it’s not quite the same! Great blog, am really enjoying reading it!

  2. I adore the french 1664 and have it always delivered through – This is what I call pure convenience…I have been using their beer delivery service for a while now, and they have been really reliable since. Staff is great and will go beyond their ordinary roles just to add those small tiny details that make their service stand out. That’s their number: 416.890.7451


  3. I lived in Cologne for 7 years and must say there’s quite a difference between all the kölschs you can get. For example the one in the picture gives you a headache like many others (Gaffel, Sion). Other small producers like Paeffgen, Mühlenkölsch and Peter’s are fantastic and you never have to worry about the other morning, so be aware which one you order!

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