Saturday, 30 July 2011


Kölsch, or Koelsch if you're not into umlauts, is a traditional beer of  Cologne, Germany.  I've heard it described as a half-way house between lager and ale, in that it uses pilsner malts, like a lager, but it is fermented at warmer temperatures more like an ale.

This is a bit of a departure for me, and comprises a number of firsts in my brewing career: the first time I've used Pilnser malt, the first time I've used just noble hops, the first time I've used a Wyeast smack-pack of yeast - in fact the first time I've brewed something which isn't a true ale.

My inspiration for this recipe is to make something my brother-in-law will appreciate at Christmas - he's a fan of his lagers, so I'm hoping the pilsner malt, noble hops and Kölsch yeast will make something he likes.

3800g Pilsner Malt
600g Pale wheat malt
150g Carapils

30g Hallertauer Hersbrucker hops [3.1%] - 80 min boil
30g Hallertauer Hersbrucker hops [3.1%] - 60 min boil
1 tsp Irish Moss - 10 min boil

The grains were mashed in 12.7 litres at 66C, and then sparged with 18 litres at between 75C and 82C.  The mash liquor had been treated the night before by boiling for 30 minutes to precipitate out calcium carbonate - to make the water as soft as possible.  The water supply here is very soft anyway, but I'm told that you want the water to be as soft as possible for a Kölsch.  I'd also added two Campden tablets to the liquor before boiling.

I ended up with 20.75 litres going into the fermenter, at a gravity of 1.051, which was pretty much what I was aiming for.

The yeast for this beer was from a pack of Wyeast strain 2565.  These Wyeast "smack-packs" are sealed plastic pouches of liquid yeast, along with an inner sachet of yeast nutrient.  You locate the inner sachet in the main pouch, give it a good sharp smack with the palm of the hand to break it, and the yeast and nutrient get together to do what they're good at.  Over the course of the next day or so the pack swells up with internal pressure as the yeast gets busy.

I made the yeast up into a starter with 700ml of Wort made from Munton's Beer Kit Enhancer.

 The Kolsch is in the fermenter now, bubbling away, so I'll update this post with progress as it happens.

Update - 16 days of fermentation: The gravity is now 1.027, so it's fermenting away, but slowly.  However, after taking advice from more experienced members of the global homebrew community, I've got it fermenting in the cellar, where the air temperature is 16C, and that probably explains why it's fermenting slowly.  I've also had it suggested to me that perhaps I underpitched the yeast, given that it's a lower fermentation temperature.

Otherwise, the beer is a lovely pale yellow colour, and the aroma is very much what you'd expect from a lager.  The taste is quite sweet (because it's still 1.027) and yeasty - you can see how much cloudier this sample is than the one I took prior to pitching the yeast - this is a yeast with very low flocculation, so there's still a lot in suspension.

Update #2 - Bottling and tasting:

Fermentation finished at 1.010, meaning an approximate abv of 5.38%.  The SG was reached after 21 days of fermentation, but I left the fermenting bucket on the cold cellar floor for a further 2 weeks before bottling.

I had a sneaky early taster, as you can see below.  I'm sure you'll agree it looks like a lager.  But the taste isn't quite there.  It's nice enough, very pleasant in fact, but not as crisp as I'd like it.  I think that closer control over fermentation temperature will help with that.  But that will have to wait until I've build a fermentation fridge - and that's a project, and a blog post, all of its own.

1 comment:

  1. Nice recipe, I brewed a Kolsch a little while back using Elderflower. Turned out nice and delicate. Keep up the good work