Local Brews

02007-05-21 | Food, News, Travel | 5 comments

A German Beer Trail: Searching for Local Brews – Travel – New York Times
But drinking a Kölsch is more than just drinking a beer: it’s like drinking an entire culture. By German law, only beers brewed in Cologne may be called Kölsch, and they must be served in the tall, cylindrical glasses called stange. The Kölsch waiter, known as a Köbes, is almost always clad in blue and is universally known for a sharp tongue. (Request a glass of water instead of beer and your Köbes will probably ask if he should bring soap and a towel, too.)
I managed to get my first Kölsch without much hassle, handed over by a burly Köbes swinging the traditional round tray called a kranz, or wreath. The beer was not unlike a Pilsener in color, but the taste was much less bitter, with a nice grassy note in the mouth and a delicate fruitiness to the finish. I had more trouble getting the second, and when it came, I noticed the Köbes brusquely called me “du,” the informal word for “you” that an adult might use to address a child.

In Köln we often laps into the informal “Du”. Not like addressing a child, but addressing a friend. If you want formal German you are in the wrong place – go to another city. And yes, Kölsch is the best beer in the world. Here is a pic from the NYT slideshow.


  1. Shawn

    Thanks for answering a question that’s been rattling about in my head for several weeks…just what the hell was that beer I had in Koln (my lack of knowledge of how to make an umlaut brands me as American – but an American who at least tries to respect the German names of cities)?

    I was sitting at the bar, drinking a liter of something and staring about in wonder at the people singing along to songs that I had never imagined existed, much less heard. Songs were alternating between obscure 50s and early 60s rock and roll and what sounded like early 70s country…but with German lyrics. The rock and roll was all English/American, but the country music was all German.

    The groups of revellers – all a bit older than myself, but still full of obvious life – would laugh and start singing along to whatever was playing. A constant flow of tall, skinny glasses kept them lubricated for their night of fun. Finally, I had to know – I had to try this odd looking beer selection. I’m glad I did. It was good stuff and the description quoted in the Times is spot on – a delightful beer and a delightful night.

    As to people slipping into the informal “Du” in Koln…I had an invitation to call a couple of people next time I was in Koln for a tour around the city after only a couple of those stanges were drained of their excellent Kolsch. I think that’s definitely worth a Du or two.

  2. Boris

    As a German living in Bavaria and originating in the north, I have to formally disagree with placing Kölsch at # 1. :) And I guess that people from Czechia would jump in here as well, hehe. Personally I prefer Jever (@ Gudrun: “Kein anderes Bier!”) which is a Pils from a city of the same name, in Lower Saxony, the north west of the country, near the coast. But don’t tell that a Bavarian!

    In serious: Kölsch certainly is first class, one of the best, most popular, and of its own characteristics. Best would be to come over and try it yourself!

    As for the “Du”, well, that can get philosophical sometimes here, no? I think that it gets less and less formal, most people prefer the “Du”, although it’s often still a step to make to switsch from “Sie” to “Du” or to even start with “Du” right from the beginning. But people favour it, like in Sweden where even in business you use the informal “Du” …

  3. Gudrun

    What is the top? Germany named 200 various kinds of beer! There’s no accounting for tastes.

    My place of work is nearby a brewery, puh… there is often a stench. I’m not a fan of beer, I prefer a tasty cup of cappuccino or hot chocolate at anytime. But… who is preparing the best..??….

    Boris, I remember me when I became 16 all the adults of the neighbourhood said “Sie” and I thought: “I must be seeing things”.

  4. Panj

    Shawn try holding down your alt key and hitting 0246 on your keypad…that should make an ö…

  5. Shawn

    Thanks Panj…now I can be a bit more proper with my German. Hopefully, I’ll be able to remember next time I need it!


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