Reissdorf Kolsch: The great lawnmower beer
Reissdorf Kolsch has been my beer of the summer, and will be for summers to come. Kolsch has been a rare style and a bit difficult to find, but it is finally coming out and getting the recognition it deserves. It has been popping up on many decent restaurant beer lists, and several American craft brewers have taken a stab at it recently. While it is an ale, it drinks like a lager -- just as it was designed to. Kolsch was the German answer to the Czech pilsners that were all the rage back in the day. People were beginning to move away from the big, dark, heavy German beers and towards the new crisper, lighter lagers. Kolsch was the perfect answer; light and refreshing, but with a malt backbone instead of all the Czech hops. Originally, like champagne, only the beer of this style actually brewed in Cologne, Germany could officially be called Kolsch, but apparently the rules have been relaxed. Reissdorf was born from that initial Czech challenge and has been pumping out their fine Kolsch in Cologne since the late 1890s.
Properly poured, a Kolsch should technically come in one of those tall, slender glasses, but it isn’t that fussy. When ordered back in Germany, they will keep bringing these light little beers in the tubular glass until you tell them to stop. They take it for granted that you’re going to want a bunch of them and it would be easier to tell them to quit bringing them than to keep ordering them as needed. These are definitely drinking beers. It looks like about any pilsner or American macro -- golden and clear with an average white head that fades to a bit of lacing. There is certainly nothing dramatic in the appearance. The aroma is rather slight, but heftier than a typical beer that leans to the light side. The malt stands out already, though, and differentiates itself immediately from the hoppier pilsners. It smells mainly of malt, in this case, mostly grain and bread.
A more perfect beer for the heat of summer will be hard to find. Crackling crisp and refreshing, but with a sweet malt foundation rather than the bitter hops. The flavor is grainy and grassy with a dab of citrus and a bite of apple or pear. The hops are well beneath all that and only contribute a notion of bitterness. This is the great lawnmower beer; a great cook-out beer; a great beer for a long summer session on the deck. It pairs well with any food from grilled meats to salad and seafood. It is highly carbonated, giving it even more snap, and the low 4.8% alcohol level makes it perfect for those summer days when you know you’re having several.
The rarity of this style is the only drawback. In Germany they are cheapish, light beers you’re meant to have many of in a sitting, and priced accordingly. Here, you’re paying import prices or, in some cases, craft beer prices that are usually for stronger beers. Upwards of $10 for a six pack of Kolsch can get pricey when you have a bunch of hot and thirsty beer drinkers around. Or, even just one. Reissdorf is worth the extra money, though. If you like your beer on the malty side rather than hop-heavy, or just looking for a break from the usual pilsners, then Reissdorf Kolsch gives you all the flavor you’d want in a crisp light and refreshing beer. It’ll be what I’m having all summer long.