Monthly Archives: March 2013

New Holland Full Circle Kölsch-Style Ale

Beer: Kölsch-Style Ale
Ful Circle
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 4.9%


Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa




Sight: Slightly cloudy, golden body with a large fluffy head that recedes to small bubbly rim.

Smell: Crisp, metallic aroma with a hint of alcohol, spice, raisins, and sparkling apple cider.

Flavor: Mellow, underwhelming flavor compared to its smell. Some might not agree, but there is a slight glue and cleaning product flavor.

Feel: Medium, creamy body with low carbonation. Quite a strange mouthfeel for the style.

Concluding Remark: Well, this is my first go at an American Kölsch-style ale, and really, what was I expecting from a German beer made solely for drinking at ein brauhaus? I’m nowhere near Cologne right now, and on a slow night in suburban New Jersey, seemingly even farther away from a beer garden. While drinking some beers evoke memories of beer halls and debauched nights in Germany, Full Circle’s Kölsch just reminds me of drinking an unmemorable beer. Which means I’m reminded of nothing and instead painfully aware of my present, which consists of drinking this average beverage.

So, it’s totally not a bad beer–it does capture the sweetness and subtle malt flavors of a standard Kölsch. However, it falls short of what makes the style so drinkable: its exceptionally crisp, fresh, and light qualities. Oh well. Stick with the authentic brews certified under the Kölsch Konvetion. That is all.

*Ironically, I drank this beer before I photographed it while waiting for my camera to charge because I was just so gosh darn excited to try it and clearly couldn’t contain myself. Not worth it.

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Gaffel Kölsch

Beer: Kölsch
Privatbrauerei Gaffel
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 4.8%


Serving Style: Draft
Drinking Establishment: Pilsnerhaus, Hoboken, NJ
Primary Consumer: Kerensa




Sight: Clear golden body with no head. It looks like a generic macro lager ala Budwesier.

Smell: There’s an overwhelming aroma of watery pennies. That’s all I get.

Flavor: Oddly, it tastes like mozzarella and parmesan cheese, paired with a side of white bread and barley. I will issue the caveat that I am hungry and just saw a plate of Obatzda– a cheese spread–go by and would much rather be eating that than drinking this and thus there is a 15% chance that I am projecting my cheese spread desires onto this poor unknowing beer.

Feel: Thin with high carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Gaffel is a standard Kölsch from Cologne, but it’s somehow not as delicious as the Reissdorf despite being brewed to the same specs. To say it’s lacking complexity would be an understatement. As the Gaffel Brauerei states, it has a “light and refreshing taste that compliments almost all foods…it is superbly drinkable and subtle without being too filling.” While I might not go as far as to say that this is “superb,” and maybe by “subtle” they meant “the flavor is subtle, i.e. nearly undetectable,” the Gaffel Kölsch is a a Cologne favorite. I could be bribed to agree if presented with a plate of Obatzda in the next few minutes…

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Reissdorf Kölsch

Beer: Kölsch
Brauerei Heinrich Reissdorf
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 4.8%


Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa




Sight: Crystal clear golden body with a bright white head that disappears after a minute, which is typical of a Kölsch.

Smell: The initial aroma is bright and sweet, with hints of fresh apples and metal from the special yeast with which the traditional Kölsch is brewed. There’s also a fresh baked bread smell.

Flavor: The prominent flavors are mineral-y water, those thin pretzel sticks, and a slight hop bite. There is a lingering sweetness, which tastes a little like salted caramel.

Feel: Thin, watery body with high carbonation. This has the mouthfeel of the perfect summer bier, i.e. you could drink this for hours on end instead of water and walk around in a sunstroke haze and soak up the beautiful memories of the sun. Summer cannot get here fast enough, clearly. What I’m getting at is, is that this is exceptionally easy to drink.

Concluding Remark:  As the label states, the Reissdorf Kölsch is “THE CLASSIC KOLSCH.” Well, it might not be “THE” Kölsch, but it is certainly A Kölsch, as this beer is brewed in Cologne and abides by the Kölsch Konvention. A typical Kölsch, it’s bright, lightly malted, and has just a slight fruit flavor. While not particularly complex, there are a few layers of flavor here that make Reissdorf one superiorly drinkable beer. Don’t go trying a Kölsch thinking you’re in for an innovative micro beer; no, this is one of the most popular in Cologne (i.e., it appeals to thousands of people and can’t be that delicious). However, the Reissdorf Kölsch is an exceptional example of the Cologne ale. Man, the Cologne volk were hella smart for  resisting conversion to the lager cult.

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Exploring German Bier: The Kölsch Ale

After spending the last few months exploring the ales of the New World, it’s time to get back to the birthplace of modern beer: Europa! Specifically, we take our beer magnifying glass and old-timey pipe back over to Germany to inspect some styles that are oft written off as simply “easy to drink” and “not particularly interesting.” If you walk into bar with over five taps, chances are you will find a Hefeweizen or a Pilsner. However, other German beers do exist and this month we are going to study one style a week in order to make clear the differences between each type of beer.

To get started, we will be consuming the Kölsch Ale–a warm-fermented and cold-conditioned (“lagered”) ale straight outta Cologne (Köln), Germany. This ale, a variant of the wheat beer, was first produced in 1906, and the term “Kölsch” appeared in 1918. But as these things go, there’s more to this story….

note the Cologne Cathedral in the background

History of Kölsch

The Kölsch ale was not a wild hit when Sünner Brauerei produced the first modern version in 1906.  No, it was the lager that maintained popularity throughout Germany. This all changed after World War II. During the war, over 95% of the breweries in Cologne were destroyed. After the war,  these breweries slowly rebuilt their facilities, and the brewing industry was revitalized by the 1950s. It was at this point that the Kölsch began to reign the Cologne beer market.

The Kölsch is a reliable ale–you won’t find too much variation from one Kölsch to the next. This is largely due to the fact that the beer is defined by the Cologne Brewery Association in the Kölsch Konvention of 1985(1). Like the infamous Reinheitsgebot, a Kölsch is only a Kölsch if it meets the terms in this Konvention. Certainly, there are other German breweries–and American breweries–that produce Kölsch-like ales; however, they aren’t (and shouldn’t be!) labeled “Kölsch.”

(1) In case you were wondering what the Kölsch Konvention stipulates: 1) the beer must be brewed in the Cologne metropolitan area, 2) must be pale, 3) must be top-fermented, 4) must be hop-accented, 5) must be filtered, and 6) it must have a gravity between 11-14% plato. 

The good Kölsch name was further protected in 1997 when it became an appellation of origin under EU law. This means that, much much like Parmesan cheese or Bordeaux wine, only Kölsch beers brewed in the designated region can be referred to as a Kölsch.

Regardless of these exclusive protective regulations, the Kölsch isn’t all that popular outside of the Cologne MSA. Less than 1 out of 20 beers consumed in Germany is a Kölsch. In Cologne proper, the  Kölsch accounts for about half of beers downed in das bierhaus.

Kölsch Ale is not a German Lager

What is particularly special about the Kölsch, is that not only is it one of the few ales in Germany, it is actually a hybrid beer–neither a true ale nor a true lager. An ale, as you may know, is a warm-fermented, top-conditioned beer, and a lager, the opposite. A Kölsch is a combination of these two techniques: it is warm-fermented, but bottom-conditioned, and it sits for about two months before consumption, which is typical of a lager.

Cologne was an anomaly in German beer history. According to moderately credible sources, lagering techniques slowly made their way to Cologne. While lager was all the rage in most of Germany, Cologne only really began brewing lagers with the advent of refrigeration. Instead of jumping on the lager bandwagon, the stadtvaters (city fathers), decreed that top-fermented beers (ale) were to be brewed in the city in 1603. Later, the city outlawed lager production after Bavaria prohibited summer brewing due to potential quality and spoiling concerns. Lagers, which are cold-conditioned (i.e., designed to sit in the winter), were brewed in the winter and ales in the summer. Thus, it was illegal to brew ales in Bavaria. Cologne and neighboring Dusseldorf had no intention in following Bavarian trends, and began producing a “Keutebier”–a wheat-based ale falling somewhere between a Belgian Wit Ale and a German Hefeweizen–which was consumed between the 1500-1800s. Slowly, the wheat content of Keutebiers petered out and slowly transformed into the beer we know today as the Kölsch–an all barely ale. Dusseldorf produced a slightly darker, copper ale called an Altbier, or old beer, referring to medieval pre-lager (ale) techniques.  The major difference between the Kölsch and the Altbier is that the latter is brewed with Munich malts (giving it a dark, amber color–like a Marzen) and the former with Pils malts (giving it a pale, straw color–like a pilsner). They are both barely-based and filtered, unlike German’s popular ale, the Hefeweizen, which is wheat-based and unfiltered.

A Cologne Ritual 

As the Kölsch is a regional speciality, it shouldn’t be too surprising that there are a number of cultural rituals attached to the consumption of this hybrid ale. For one, the Kölsch is a party beer: this is a beer that is often served in large quantities via special beer-carriers (kranz), and this is also a beer that is meant to be consumed quickly. Lots of beer consumed quickly = PARTYBIER. Further, while the Koln Konvention stipulates how the beer is brewed and with what ingredients, there might as well be a Konvention that mandates how the beer is served. Kölsch ales are served in something called a stange–a 200 ML narrow glass.

Köbes mit einem Kranz Kölsch

Köbes, or male waiters in Cologne, deliver these beer holders while wearing a long blue apron and a money pouch. As you finish a beer, the Köbes will replace your empty stange with a new one until you admit yourfail at life by putting a coaster over your stange, or you become a bierleichen (beer zombie) and fall asleep at the table.

someone couldn’t keep up…

What to Expect

Brewed with one malt, the pale Pils malt, and the quintessentially German Hallertauer hops, expect the following from your Kölsch:

Sight: Clear, pale straw-colored body with a little head that quickly dissipates.

Smell: The aroma should be slightly apple-y, hoppy, and fresh.

Taste: Light hop bitterness, with a hint of sweetness from the malt, and a slight fruity flavor from a special yeast.

Feel: Dry with medium carbonation that will become slightly flat if you let it sit for too long.


As you go forward with your Kölsch drinking, make note that it is traditionally served in a tall cylindrical glass called a “stange,” or pole. As the story goes, these ales are served in small glasses because they lose their flavor as they sit. So, get yourself a Stange, a Kölsch, and drink quickly.


Categories: Kölsch | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

End of Month Report: Top 5 Amber/Red Ales

As I am no longer in graduate school and work one of them job things, a monthly GET BLIZTED DAY is sort out of the question. The weekends are for laundry and errands, amirite? Just kidding, I’m going to a brewery tour AND a beer garden today. Woot!

But anyways, instead of a GBD, we are going to institute an “End of Month Report” that analyzes the data we’ve collected over the last month and synthesizes our findings into a TOP 5 LIST. That way, you can skip all of the crap we’ve had to consume and go right to the good stuff.

And without further ado…

EOM Report

Downloadable pdf to take to the liquor store: EOM Report


1. Nugget Nectar, Tröegs Brewing Company, Imperial Amber Ale, 7.8%, BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSE

2. My Bloody Valentine, AleSmith Brewing Company, Red Ale, 6.66%, BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEbeeruse-copy

3. HopBack, Tröegs Brewing Company, Amber Ale, Amber Ale, 6.0%, BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSE

4. Amber Ale, Crazy Mountain Brewing Company, Amber Ale, 5.25%, BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSE

5. Captain Sig’s Northwestern Ale, Rogue Ales, (India) Red Ale, 6.0%, BEERUSEBEERUSEBEERUSEbeer 75

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Tröegs Nugget Nectar

Beer: Nugget Nectar
Tröegs Brewing Company
Style: Imperial Amber Ale
ABV: 7.5%


Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa




Sight: Crystal clear amber body with a small white head that quickly dissipates.

Smell: This might be the best smelling beer of all time, if you enjoy the smell of sweet, pungent, juicy, piney hops.

Flavor: I’ve started plenty of these “flavor” sections with “if only it tasted as good as it smelled” or “well, this tastes NOTHING like it smells.” This won’t be one of those reviews (except for the fact that I technically did start with those statements). Indeed, this beer tastes like a big serving of sweet, pungent, juicy, piney hops. As insanely hoppy as this beer is, it is almost equally balanced with a caramel sweetness. There is nothing else on the planet like this beer.

Feel: Medium body with moderate carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Depending on your level of beer geek, you might be aware that Tröegs’ Nugget Nectar has a cult following. You, like myself, might be the high superior wizard of that cult. If so, there’s no need to keep reading; you already know of the magical powers that this beers possesses. And by magical powers, I mean the power of tasting like rainbows, world peace, and waterfalls. If you are not yet acquainted with the holiness of Nugget Nectar, ignore every recommendation I have ever written in CAPITALS on this site. What I’m about to say is the only truth that matters: Tröegs, a microbrewery out of Hershey, Pennsylvania, makes the best beer in the United States (well, the best beer that is readily available on the East Coast in the early winter months).

praising the lord of Nugget.

Nugget Nectar, regardless of how long it sits on your bedroom floor as you painfully wait to review it, tastes like the moment its  hops and barley were first plucked from their hallowed grounds–fresh and heavenly. When people ask, “if you could only drink one beer for the rest of your life, what would it be,” I answer Nugget Nectar nine times out of ten.*

*If it happens to be a hot day, sometimes I get nostalgic for drinking fresh pilsners in snowy Prague and might say Pilsner Urquell. Or, if it happens to be Oktoberfest season, I might answer Hofbrau’s Oktoberfest. Or, if I’m craving something dark and sweet at that moment…NO, I will still pick Nugget Nectar. Clearly, the only things that trumps Nugget are nostalgic travel memories.

ANYWAYS. I don’t know what else I can say about the world’s most perfect beer, other than that it is the world’s most perfect beer. It is the world’s most perfect beer.

the most beautiful sight in all of the land.

The key ingredients to perfection, in you case you haven’t read it in a Buzzfeed list or in Lifestyle yoga mat tips for the freelancer biannual zine, are: Pilsner malts, Vienna malts, Munich malts, Nugget hops, Warrior hops, Tomahawk hops, Simcoe hops, and Palisade hops.

You’ll be able to find Nugget Nectar in stores for the next few weeks, so get it while supplies last (they usually do not). Even better, try to find it on tap. I had the incredible fortune of finding it at a new pizza place in DC last year, and I pretty much had a flavorgasm while eating dinner with my father. Awkward.


We started  this two-month journey through the world of Amber (and Red) Ales with Tröegs’ HopBack Amber Ale, and we end with Tröegs’ Nugget Nectar, which Tröegs says is the HopBack “intensified…to create an explosive hop experience.” Well done, Tröegs. Take a nearly perfect beer and make it unquestionably perfect; most would settle on just great enough.  Dareisay that Tröegs might have cornered the market on the Amber Ale. And I’m fine with that.

Categories: Amber Ale | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Terrapin Big Hoppy Monster

Beer: Big Hoppy Monster
 Terrapin Beer Company
Style: Imperial Red Ale
ABV: 9.1%


Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa




Sight: Opaque, muddy brown body with a tiny, frothy head.

Smell: This is one of those beers that you can smell across a room. Despite its label, this Red Ale smells alarmingly akin to a Belgian Dubbel Ale, with its sugary, syrupy aroma with dried and rotting fruits of the raisin, prune, and fig variety. There is also a hint of port and caramelized caramel. So, what I’m saying is that this beer smells sweet.

Flavor: Well, this isn’t any Red Ale I recognize. Instead, it tastes like some sort of Porter-Belgian hybrid. The prominent flavors are bakers chocolate, burnt coffee, caramel, and figs. There is a bite from the high ABV and a subdued hop flavor–shocking, given it’s name (Big Hoppy Monster).

Feel: Medium, oily  body with moderate carbonation.

Concluding Remark: This 2 variations (Red and Amber) on 1 style (Amber) in 2 months (January & February) deal should end with an alcoholic bang. Terrapin’s Big Hoppy Monster, an oak-aged Imperial Red Ale, certainly fits that bill at 9.1% ABV. However, a Red Ale–a balanced ale that leans slightly in the hops direction–this is not. Perhaps Terrapin mislabeled this bottle? Instead of a bright, well-hopped ale, Big HOPPY Monster instead tastes like a highly alcoholic glass of dirt. The bakers chocolate paired with burnt coffee and whatever hops Terrapin used translates to the flavor of earth. Not EARTHY flavor, but literally, the taste of soil. It must be noted, though, that the OAK-AGED Big Hoppy Monster is different than the regular Big Hoppy Monster. An ale that is oak-aged will be sweeter and syrupy-er than it would be no-oak. I’d like to think that the Big Hoppy Monster actually tastes like a Red Ale.

At 9.1%, this beer has the highest ABV of the month. For that, I will forgive Terrapin for not serving a classical Red Ale. There is no such thing as a 9.1% classical Red Ale. While I’m missing the ‘Hoppy’ in Big Hoppy Monster, Terrapin delivers on the ‘Big’ and ‘Monster’ in Big Hoppy Monster. Despite the high ABV, it’s highly drinkable. However,  if you do find yourself with a bottle of this in hand, please remember that it is not characteristic of a Red Ale.

Stay tuned…we will be reviewing the BEST AMBER ALE AND BEER OF ALL TIME this weekend and announcing next month’s style on Monday!


Categories: Amber Ale, Red Ale | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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