Springtime, the time when a person’s thoughts turn to brewing. Cool nights and mild days are the perfect fermentation conditions for brewing refreshing ales for summer. The summer BBQ’s are just around the corner.  A big stout is most welcomed on a cold night but it is not the beer you want when the snags and steaks are sizzling with the bright sun directly above in a clear blue sky. This is the time to sip a Kolsch,  a traditional pale German ale.So what are the characteristics of this beer style?


 6.3 Kölsch [BJCP]

Appearance: Very pale gold to light gold.  Has a delicate white head.

Aroma: Very low to no Pils malt, pleasant, subtle fruit aroma. Some yeasts  may give a slight winy or sulphury character.

Flavour: Soft, rounded palate delicate flavour balance between soft yet attenuated malt, an almost

imperceptible fruity sweetness, and a medium-low to medium bitterness with a delicate dryness

and slight pucker in the finish (but no harsh aftertaste). The noble hop flavour is variable, low

to moderately high; most are medium-low to medium.. Some versions can have a slightly minerally or sulphury water or yeast character that accentuates the dryness and flavour balance. Otherwise very clean.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and crisp. Medium-light body. Medium to medium high

carbonation. Generally well attenuated.

Overall Impression: A clean, crisp, delicately balanced beer usually with very subtle fruit flavours and aromas.

Subdued maltiness throughout leads to a pleasantly refreshing tang in the finish.


Vital Statistics:

 OG              FG              IBUs    ABV

1044-1050   1007-1011  20-30    4.4-5.2%

This style usually requires only a few, but quality, ingredients. This is the way I brew a Kolsch.

OG 1.048, FG 1.008. Needs to have good attenuation with a dry finish but I don’t won’t the alcohol to be over powering.

IBU 30. Needs a balancing bitterness but I didn’t want it be dominant. With a BUGU of about 0.6 this is a good balance.

Alcohol. 5.2%, 5.5% bottled. A bit high for style so you can reduce the OG if you wish.

ADA 83%. Gives the beer the needed lightness of body, dryness of finish and refreshing crispness.


Brewing  a Kolsh


Amount Ingredient Character Contribution % or IBU
4.550 kg German Pilsner malt Clean grainy, hints of sulphur 95%
0.2 kg Wheat, Torrified or malted Aids head retention    4%
0.1 kg Acid malt Adds to the crispness and helps with the pH    1%
60 gm Hallertaurer Hops 4% 60 mins Pleasant herbal character            30
1 gm Calcium Sulphate mash Adds some crispness  
3 gm Calcium Chloride mash Boosts malt character to balance very light body  
1 tsp Yeast nutrient Yeast needs all the help it can get  
 1/2 tabletor 15 gms Whirlfloc  or Brew Brite Needs to be clear  
 1 vial WLP029 German Ale/Kolsch Yeast It is essential to use a Kolsch yeast for this style to give the delicate balance of white wine character with hints of sulphur and fruits.  


I mash this beer at 64oC for 80 minutes to ensure good attenuation. Then ten minutes at 68+oC to ensure conversion. Then run off and sparge as normal. I always boil for 90 minutes but it could be a bit less if needed. Pre boil is 30 L, boiled down to 25 L with about 22 L into the fermenter.

Let it ferment for three to four weeks or more to be sure the yeast has done its job. Try to locate it so it ferments in the mid to high teens without much variation if possible. This yeast can take time to drop out so it can be lagered at 0-2oC for a few weeks if possible

 I usually bulk prime with 120 gm of dextrose at bottling to ensure a good carbonation without having bottle bombs. If you keg you can increase the carbonation to your own liking. If you could not lager before, and it has some haze, you can lager in the keg or bottles. This beer improves with cold and patience.


Non Mash Versions

If you want to make an extract version then you could replace the base malts with 3 kg of extra light dry malt or 3.5 kg of extra light liquid malt. You can replace 200 gms of the dried malt with 200 gms of dried wheat malt if you want. Follow your normal boil procedure adding the hops as stated in the recipe. You can add the calcium sulphate and calcium chloride to the boil. Aim to have  22 litres in the fermenter.

For a kit version you could start with a dry blonde lager, and add 1.5 kg of extra light dried malt. However you will need to use the Kolsch yeast and not the kit yeast.

So at that summer BBQ, when you are drinking your crisp, refreshing Kolsch, offer some to the lifelong VB drinkers. You might be very surprised with the responses.


Brew Well

Barry Cranston