Beer 101 - German Kolsch

Beer 101

Kolsch is Germany's only light ale and one of the few light ale styles in the world. Kolsch is actually a "lagered ale," ironically enough by today's definitions, but it is fermented with a top-fermenting ale yeast specific only to this style, and then lagered for a period of around two months for clarity and mellowing. Kolsch, of course, originates from the city of Cologne, Germany, and indeed the word Kolsch is wrapped entirely up in the city: As an adjective, the word means "of Cologne" or "Cologne-ish." As a noun, the word can be either the beer or the local dialect of Cologne, leading to the joke that Kolsch is actually the "only language in the world that you can drink!"
 Germany has a long and tumultuos history with beer in general, as politics and beer have been intertwined there for centuries; a matter for another day's discussion. The relevance of that to this subject, though, is that lagering was actually illegal for a while in Cologne, as the city fathers in 1603 made it illegal to brew anything but top-fermenting beer. After the Napoleonic occupation in the late eighteenth century, however, many of the stringent edicts had been dismantled in favor of a more liberalized trade and commerce via the Code Napoleon. As is often the case, though the legal ramifications of the Napoleonic occupations died along with him, the social changes remained steadfast, opening the way for lagers to once more be crafted.
The modern Kolsch has really only been a style for the last hundred years or so, and is the only style in beer with an appellation control mandated by the German government, meaning that a Kolsch can only originate from one of about twenty breweries in and around Cologne. Anything else in the world in the kolsch style must be called "kolsch-style" rather than Kolsch.
But, as to the item of real import; how does it taste? Well, like a pilsner, generally, though not quite as hoppy, and with more esters from the warmer fermentation. It is a delicate, highly carbonated and perfectly clear, refreshing libation, lovely for these warm summer days.