As they will ask you all the time in the Cologne region:
Drinkste eine met? (Will you drink one with us?)
Whoever says Germany, says beer. And whoever says Cologne, says Kölsch. Cologne has been a centre of brewing since 873, with an unusually high number of home breweries. One might wonder if this has anything to do with a decision of the Aachen Council. Here, in 817, beer was elevated officially to the status of a "Christian healing potion" and thus became an integral part of monastic food. And the breweries had a lot to do, because every monastic brother was entitled to a daily ration of over 5 litres (!) of beer. In the 9th century, there was only the so-called "Gruit", or herbal beer. Hops and yeast were still unknown, so various herbs (e.g. yarrow and juniper) were used, while "natural air fermentation", yeasts occurring naturally in the air, was relied upon. In the 11th century, a fork with 2 prongs, called a "Gaffel", was introduced from Venice and was used at brewers' table parties. Just how popular beer was at that time is shown by the fact that the surname "Bierbauch" (beer belly) appears in lists of names around 1169. In 1302 the brewery "Zum Leisten", located where the Gaffel brewery was later built, is mentioned. while in 1543 the Cologne council appointed Hermann von Weinsberg, contrary to the impression raised by his family name, as their official beer inspector. We can only wonder whether he took his duties home with him.
"Modern" Kölsch beer is brewed with barley malt, hops, and water. Some brewers add a small amount of wheat malt. The hops for Kölsch come mainly from the Lower Rhine region, the area of the cities of Kerpen and Düren, and from the Hallertau and Tettnang on Lake Constance. While most top-fermented beers are fermented at temperatures around 20°C, most Kölsch breweries do this much cooler, at around 14-16°C.
Nowadays, Kölsch is not only enjoyed just in Cologne. In the 21st century, approximately 3 million hectolitres (about 530 million pints!) of Kölsch are brewed annually and enjoyed all over the world. So if you can enjoy a Kölsch in the comfort of your own home, only a variation of the where, how and with whom will make your enjoyment extra special. And here "Am Alten Fronhof" offers you the perfect environment to maximise your experience. Whether it is on the beautiful terrace, where the beautiful old church "next door" and the city of Cologne down in the valley will keep distracting you from your conversation, or inside in the pub where centuries of hospitality falls around you like a comfortable, warm, and familiar blanket. But you're not sure yet whether this is something for you? Maybe that this handy guide can help you to drink Kölsch like a local.
|Drinkste eine met?||Article 10 of the Cologne Constitution. Translated literally: "Will you have a drink with me/ us?" If this is such an important phrase in Cologne, it will not surprise you that it's also the title of a song of one of the most famous Cologne bands, the "Bläck Fööss". So when the landlord decides that it is time to play this song, be prepared to be grabbed by your neighbours, who will ask you with melancholic tears in their eyes whether you will have a drink with them. And although the people of Cologne are often characterised as "somewhat peculiar and way too easy going" by the rest of Germany, they turn out to be really German what this "law" is concerned.|
|Schunkeln||Then, when you got a grasp of the words (sounds?) of the song, and are singing (or politely feigning to) with your new found friends, you will be making these bodily movements. Be prepared to experience that "schunkeln" is just as ingrained with the people of Cologne as a gyrating pelvis was with Elvis. Feel free to practice in the comfort of your own home as a preparation for your visit to "Am Alten Fronhof".|
|Kölsch glass or Stange||Kölsch beer is drunk traditionally from a slim, cylindrical, relatively thin-walled glass with a content of 0.2 litres (little less than half a pint), which goes back to earlier, historic drinking habits. Nowadays, landlords are (trying) to introduce more generous volumes, since the traditional "Stange" requires considerably more time and personnel than larger glasses. However, glasses larger than 0.2 litre are frowned upon by connoisseurs because Kölsch loses its fresh taste and head quite quickly after being poured. And yes, as you probably already know, foam on a beer is obligatory. Beer without head will be removed quickly as "alt" (old) and not fit for consumption. So you have to keep up the tempo. No sipping on beers with perhaps more familiar luke-warm Britsh flat-headed-ness allowed!|
|Stössje or Stößchen||Nightmare of our friends from Bavaria. In some traditional pubs, like "Am Alten Fronhof", you will find half a Kölsch, which is served in tiny 0.1 litre (0.176 UK pint!) glasses.|
|Pittermännchen||If you come over to the Cologne region, better make sure you practiced your pronounciation for this one. Where a "Petermännchen" is a weeverfish, the one you're looking for (probably) is a "Pittermännchen". The latter is a 10 litre barrel (17.6 pints), which in some breweries and pubs can be ordered to your table, so you can take the pouring of your beers into your own capable hands. Since Kölsch develops its full flavour only at a certain temperature, it is served at 8 to 10 degrees. And the Pittermännchen makes sure that your Kölsch is, and stays at that temperature. So no more warm stale beer in a large, open jugs on your table, as our American friends seem so fond of. After all, jugs are for watering plants, not people, aren't they? Oh, and before you ask: yes, that smiling gentleman on the right here is the archbishop of Cologne, who just secured himself a consumption...|
Trying to figure out what this ongoing red nose thing is all about? Well, in Cologne they don't do Red Nose Day once a year, like in the UK. Nope, they feel perfectly comfortable being a bit silly all year round. Now, guess why the rest of Germany thinks the Cologne region is "a little bit weird"? Not that the Kölner themselves are really bothered. After all, you should never take yourself too seriously, right?
"Köbes" is the Cologne variety of the name Jacob, and is found in many, if not most other dialects spoken in the German Rhineland. Occasionally, the word "Köbes" is also used with the secondary meaning, i.e. "a stubborn, angular, brutish person". The Köbes and her/ his "unique" way of serving customers is a centuries old tradition, typical of the Rheinland brewery culture. The often rough way of serving is attributed to the original custom in the Middle Ages, when brewers' hands and apprentices, who had little to no experience with visitor-friendly gastronomy, were ordered to also serve customers in the public rooms. Or as German writer Frank Schätzing experienced it during his visit to Cologne:|
"In Cologne everything was different. [...] You don't order Kölsch in a brewery, you get it allotted. Nor is the Köbes a waiter, but a brewery assistant whose pride excludes carrying beer to tables. If, however, Cologne residents follow the rules, which is rare enough, they do so in anticipation of the exception that comes with it. One of such exceptions is that Köbes ultimately do carry beer to tables because they are entrepreneurs and therefore not waiters. [...] You have to believe in a Köbes like in providence or the archangel Gabriel. Then all will be well."
Reading that, it's obvious that Frank never ventured outside Cologne to let himself be spoiled at "Am Alten Fronhof".
|Zappes||In the German Rhineland, the "Zappes" is the person who pours the Kölsch from the (wooden) barrel, and gives it to the Köbes, or, like in smaller pubs, to the guests directly. The name "Zappes" is derived from the German word for tap. Traditionally, the Köbes will pay the Zappes for the poured beers (s)he takes with beer tokens. This system evolved over time, because Zappes were paid by the brewery on an hourly rate, and therefore didn't share in any tips ("Trinkgeld", drinking money literally) the Köbes might receive from the guests. Even at the beginning of the 20th century, a Zappes was most likely an underage boy. Up to this day, some breweries and pubs in Cologne still serve beer from wooden barrels, and employ Zappes. Careful "investigation" will show you however that all Zappes these days look surprisingly mature...|
|Kranz||Since the end of the 19th century, the Köbus uses a "Kranz" for serving Kölsch. This container, or serving tray if you will, will take up to 18 glasses, and has two handles in the middle, one on the top and one in the bottom. The person who orders a "Kranz" always has friends.|
Can I have another one please?
|Originally, a beer mat was placed on the glass so that nothing could fall in it, and your beer stayed fresh longer. However, in Cologne breweries and pubs like "Am Alten Fronhof" it is customary to mark the number of Kölsch ordered with a line per glass on your beer mat. This way, both the Köbes and guest keep can keep track of how many Kölsch have been drunk. And this is no luxury; be prepared that, once you have emptied your Kölsch, the Köbes will bring you another one immediately, without you asking for a new one, or the Köbes asking whether you would like another. This will continue until you put your mat on top of your glass. Placing your beer mat on top of your glass signals to the Köbes unequivocally "Der hät keine Doosch mih." (She/ he is not thirsty any more) and that you're ready to pay the lines you accumulated.|
But maybe we are a little too enthusiastic about our Kölsch. Maybe beer is not really your thing, and you'd rather enjoy a nice wine. If this is indeed you, then Fronhof is the right address for you, too. We would be more than happy to share our collection of local and international wines with you. And don't worry. We won't ask you to do the beer mat thing with your wine (that is, unless you want to of course). That way you can really enjoy the bouquet of your wine, just as it should be and you like it. So just ask. It will surprise you how "Am Alten Fronhof" can spoil you...