When I first got into craft beer, I was all about the hops. The bar next to campus had plenty of IPAs on tap, and the stronger and hoppier the better! These days I’m looking for mellower, more subtle beers. Malt-forward European styles deliver on that, and the German Kölsch is one of my favorites. More importantly, unlike many classic European lagers, Kölsch is an ale, which I can much more easily make at home with my current equipment.

Kölsch originates from Cologne, Germany. Technically, a beer can only officially be a Kölsch if it was brewed near Cologne! But any Kölsch-style beer is pale and lightly hopped, fermented warm like an ale, then cold conditioned like a lager. The result is a clear, smooth, bready, and gently bitter beer.

Like many of these recipes, this one is also adapted from Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer. The biggest change is the addition of whirlpool Cascade hops for a citrus bump. Maybe my IPA days aren’t completely behind me…


Styles Kölsch (BJCP 5B)
Recipe Type All Grain
Batch Size 3 Gallons
Original Gravity 1.048
Final Gravity 1.012
ABV 4.7%
IBUs 27
Color 3.5 SRM


Kind Amount Color
US 2-Row 5 lb 2°L
Vienna Malt 0.25 lb 3.5°L
Wheat Malt 0.25 lb 3°L
Kind Amount % AA Time
Tettnang 1 oz 3.1% Boil, 60 min
Cascade 1 oz 6.4% Whirlpool, 10 min
Kind Amount
White Labs WLP029 “German Ale/Kolsch” 1 pouch

The beer itself is quite simple. A touch of Vienna and Wheat malt add some extra sweetness without much color. A noble hop such as Tettnang or Hallertau will carry the bulk of the bittering. Then as a special touch, I added some Cascade hops post-boil to impart a extra boost of citrus aroma and flavor.


Bring two gallons of water to 155°F in a large pot. Steep all of the grains for one hour, stirring and adjusting the temperature every 15 minutes. Remove the grains and sparge with two gallons of ~170°F water. Bring the wort to a boil, then steep the Tettnang hops for an hour.

After the hour, turn off the heat and remove the Tettnang hops. Add the Cascade hops and stir constantly for 10 minutes. After whirlpooling, remove the hops, chill the wort to ~72°F, and pitch the yeast. Don’t forget to check your starting gravity!

Let the beer ferment at 60°F for 2 weeks or until the final gravity is reached. Then, let the beer cold condition at ~50°F (or as close as you can get) for 4 more weeks. After the long wait, the beer should be ready to bottle!


This beer is a winner. The appearance is slightly off - Kölsch should be a bit more pale and a lot clearer - but the flavor is spot on. The body is rich and bready but the beer itself is light. There’s a hint of citrus in the aroma and a gentle orange kick in the aftertaste. It’s a nice twist on a classic that doesn’t go too far afield.

Appearance Opaque but not hazy, a bit too dark to be “pale.”
Aroma Grainy, hint of citrus rind and hop resin.
Mouthfeel Tiny bubbles, smooth, dry, champagne-like.
Flavor Bready, not too sweet, hint of orange, gently bitter but not hoppy.
Overall Very good, classic Kölsch taste with a twist!