After photographing the cherry blossom in Bonn, we spent two days in Cologne (Köln) where it’s all about kölsch – a top-fermented, easy drinking beer, in-between an ale and a lager, that gets served in thin, 20cl glasses. When you are about to finish one, another will arrive, unless you make it clear that you are done (usually using a beer mat as defence). It’s a great system – there’s no decision making required, beers are cheap and super fresh (often straight from the barrel on the bar top), and they tend to appear before you’ve even sat down. Granted, it’s not the most exciting beer in the world, but it makes a welcome change to hazy double IPAs and funky brett-fermented wild ales.
There are historic brewpubs all over the city that have their own distinct version of the beer, and we had great fun tracking a bunch of them down. If you want to do a little kölsch crawl yourself, here’s a decent route (with some optional extras). Kick off at Brahaus Reissdorf, our favourite kölsch-hole in Cologne due to the chilled atmosphere in the pub and the super drinkable beer. The Coffee Gang and 485 Grad Pizzeria aren’t too far away if you are need of caffeine and sustenance. N.B. Most of the brewpubs also have hearty food on offer – eating isn’t cheating, people. Anyway, then push on to Malzmühle, the second oldest brewery in Cologne that’s over 150 years old and makes possibly the tastiest kölsch in the city.
Heading in to the old town, you could drop in to Brauerei Pfaffen for some kölsch that was a little too Belgian for me – it’s a nice enough spot though. But you should definitely swing by the lively Peter’s Brauhaus for a few glasses and some grub in a proper beer hall, before settling down in Brauhaus Sion. Grab the table near the bar for a great view of proceedings in this historic brewpub that was rebuilt after being completely destroyed by bombs in May 1942, and refurbished more recently in 2012. We didn’t make it to the famous Früh, the kölsch you are most likely to have seen in an off-license – that’s around the corner from Sion if you fancy it. Further away, but also worth seeking out, is Brauerei Päffgen who have a brewpub near the Belgian quarter, and the stylish Lommerzheim space across the river. We did eventually cave and seek out craft beer at Braustelle, an innovative brewpub and distillery over in Ehrenfeld, and we may or may not have had a lock in at the excellent Craftbeer Corner Coeln that boasts 15 taps including several brews from Freigeist.
Whilst drinking a tonne of kölsch definitely counts as culture, you’ll probably need a bit of downtime. Cologne has plenty of museums and churches worth checking out, but the one place you absolute must see is the obscenely large Kölner Dom. Construction of Cologne’s gothic cathedral commenced in 1248 and was halted in 1473, leaving it unfinished. Work restarted in the 19th century and was completed, to the original plan, in 1880, some 600 years after it had begun! Whilst most of the city was flattened by World War II aerial bombs, the cathedral stood tall, though repairs continue to this day. I struggled to take a decent photo from outside as it’s tricky to get far enough away without buildings getting in the way, but there’s plenty to snap inside, not least the Gerhard Richter stained-glass window that’s made of 11,500 identically sized pieces of coloured glass, randomly arranged by a computer.
After a wander around the cathedral, we walked to Hohenzollern Bridge for a different view of the city and the Rhine, and a look at the insane number of love locks. We also made it over to the Loft in Ehrenfeld for some challenging music in a small space that made it in to The Guardian’s “10 of the best jazz clubs in Europe” article in 2016. If you make it over to the cool Cologne neighbourhood of Ehrenfeld, you might want to check out Van Dyck Rösterei, Cafe Sensucht and the aforementioned Braustelle, amongst others. There’s also a lot going on in the Belgisches Viertel (Belgian Quarter). Our stay was brief as Amsterdam beckoned, but we’ll definitely be back for more kölsch and culture in this vibrant Germany city.
Matt The Tips – Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you are planning a trip to Cologne and have any questions, or if you have some suggestions for places I should check out next time! Email me at email@example.com
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