Reissdorf Kölsch

Review Date 5/14/2003 By John Staradumsky


Most of the time, it’s a lot nicer to own an original than a copy. If somebody offered you a choice of an authenticated Van Goghpainting or a lithograph for the same price, you would be crazy not to choose the former. A first-edition issue of Action Comics number one is by far preferable to a reprint. And so on and so forth.

In the world of beer, things are a little different. Quite frequently, the copies can be as much fun as the originals, and beer enthusiasts enjoy seeking out as many copies as possible to experience different brewers’ takes on a certain style. That said, it is always helpful to have a reference for comparison purposes. An “original”, if you will.

When it comes to Kölsch beer, Reissdorf Kölsch is a great original to set your standards by. This is a classic German Kölsch from Köln (Cologne), Germany, the town from which the beer derives its name. Ideally, only beers brewed in Köln can call themselves Kölsch beer, since the name has controlled usage much like champagne. Still, you will frequently see more than a few American brewers referring to a beer they make as “Kölsch” or “Kölsch Style”.

More difficult to find in the Unites States, however, are real German Kölsches. In all my years of beer hunting I have only come across this one. I first enjoyed it several years ago on draft at Redbones in Somerville, Massachusetts. I remarked at the time that it was a fairly clean and crisp beer, which it is, much like a typical German lager beer. Recently, I saw it in bottles for the first time.

Reissdorf Kölsch is not a lager, however. Overwhelmingly, Germany is a lager brewing and drinking country, but there are a few exceptions, and Kölsch is one of them. Kölsch is top-fermented like an ale, although it does undergo a cold conditioning as lagers do. This gives the beer a clean, crisp quality like that of lagers.

Traditionally, Kölsch beer is served in small cylindrical glasses that hold about a fifth of a liter, and that is what I used to drink mine. If you happen to drink Kölsch in Köln, the waiters will often keep filling your glass until you tell them to stop. This is so much nicer than having to keep asking for more. Kölsch has been brewed in Köln for centuries; Reissdorf has been making it since 1894.

Reissdorf Kölsch pours to a pale gold color with a very high amount of carbonation and a consequent robust fizzy head. The nose suggests crisp biscuity malt and the plate follows through with this. There is a very light hint of fruit (apple?) but otherwise the palate is dominated by crisp malt and an overall clean body. A subtle hint of whiskey-like maltiness emerges as you sip. The long, dry finish is lightly bitter with grassy hop notes that linger slightly. In many respects, Reissdorf Kölsch is much like a pilsner with a subtle hint of fruit.

This is not an exceedingly complex ale, but it is an excellent example of the style and a fine sipping brew great for warm weather imbibing. Samuel Adams Spring Ale is styled as a Kölsch, and is a close approximation although I recall it being fruitier than Reissdorf. You might want to try that one too.

Glad I tried it?  T

Would I rebuy it??


*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.

(B)=Bottled, Canned