>> Sunday, September 04, 2022

Today I'm brewing a Kölsch, a style I can't believe I've never brewed before. The BJCP guidelines describe the style as follows:

A subtle, brilliantly clear, pale beer with a delicate balance of malt, fruit, and hop character, moderate bitterness, and a well-attenuated but soft finish. Freshness makes a huge difference with this beer, as the delicate character can fade quickly with age.  
Köln has a top-fermenting brewing tradition since the Middle Ages, but the beer now known as Kölsch was developed in the late 1800s as an alternative to pale lagers. Bottom fermentation was actually prohibited in Cologne. Kölsch is an appellation protected by the Kölsch Konvention (1986), and is restricted to breweries in and around Köln. The Konvention simply defines the beer as a “light, highly attenuated, hop-accentuated, clear, top-fermenting Vollbier.”
Jamil Z has a good article that he wrote about the style for BYO Magazine years ago. The BJCP guidelines mention subtle fruitiness (I think it used to omit the word “subtle”) and Jamil talks about how some homebrewers tend to run with that and brew an overly fruity and estery beer. This is a hybrid ale/lager beer and as such it should not lean too far either way. One of my complaints after judging a Belgian category years ago at a comp is that homebrewers tend to focus on a key characteristic (e.g. Belgian phenolics) and overdo it; “if a little bit is good, then more must be better”. IME this is rarely the case and I tend to shoot for balance. That will be the goal with this beer, some light fruitiness with a clean and crisp lager-like character, well attenuated and super drinkable. 

You could say it's a little late in the year to be brewing something this crisp and drinkable, but I'm the type that enjoys crisp drinkable beers year round (and Imperial Stouts too). If this turns out well, I'm planning on entering this beer in Beehive Brew-off. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing today:

Target OG 1.051
IBU: 21
7.8# Weyermann Cologne/Kolsch Malt
6.5oz Proximity White Wheat Malt
42g Tettnanger (60 min)
14g Tettnanger (10 min)
Wyeast 2535 Kolsch Yeast
Wyeast Nutrient

Step mash at 142F (30 min), then raise to 154F over 60 min
Mashout at 168F
90 minute boil
Chill to 58F, ferment at 60F

Water Profile
This is a pretty soft and balanced water profile. To 10.5 gallons of RO water, add 3 grams each of:
  • Epsom Salts
  • Calcium Chloride
Brewing Notes
No real issues with this brew session. Beginning mash temp was 141F so I pretty much hit my initial strike temp close to perfect.

While sparging, I went inside for a minute and ended up accidentally collecting a tad over 7.5 gallons rather than my targeted 6.75 gallons. To compensate, I boiled a little harder than normal. This worked out perfectly as I hit my target OG exactly at 1.051. The wort is currently chilling down to my pitch temp of 58F.

Session Readings
Beginning mash pH 5.33
Ending mash pH 5.37
1st running gravity 16.6 (1.066)
Pre-boil gravity 9.2 (1.036)
Pre-boil pH 5.46
Post-boil gravity 13.1 (1.051)
Post-boil pH 5.42

Update 9/4/2022 10:30PM
Wort was aerated and yeast pitched.

Update 9/5/2022
I was seeing signs of fermentation this morning with a bubble through the blow-off about every second.

Update 9/25/2022
I kegged this beer today. Gelatin was added to the keg for fining and I’ve started dropping the  temps.

Update 11/18/2022
I entered this beer in Beehive Brew-off and while it didn't medal, it scored fairly well with a composite score of 39; not bad for my first attempt at the style. About the only thing I didn't like about the beer was I couldn't get it to clear. I may try a different yeast next time and see if that helps. One other thing, I might try dialing the grain bill back slightly for a little bit lower gravity. My starting OG of 1.051 is a point higher than the high side of style guidelines, and I think this detracts a little from the drinkability of the finished beer (higher alcohol can increase perceived sweetness).