Kolsch-ish Ale

One eye on tradition and the other looking forward, this Kolsch-like beer is crisp, bright and goes down easy.

By Bill McFarland

Mar 13, 2023

A traditional Kolsch in Cologne, Germany is served in a tall, thin 6.8 oz glass called a stange and delivered in a constant supply from a server’s loaded tray. Your glass of lovely, crisp Kolsch is replaced any time it’s empty without even having to say a word, and a tally is kept on your coaster. Once you’ve had your fill, you put the coaster atop your empty glass, pay, and go about your day. Though historical and unique to Germany, the bright, low-ABV ale could fit in to daily life nicely anywhere.

Creating traditional Kolsch requires patience, quality ingredients, precision and a healthy respect for tradition, so I made sure to use a traditional yeast strain: Kolsch II (OYL-044), which ferments a lager-like profile with a little more estery oomph. 

And I definitely made sure to fulfill the oath that the Cologne town council made young brewers swear to in 1603 (in an effort to combat bottom-fermenting beer from stealing their city pride — and beer market share): 

that you prepare your beer, as of old, from good malt, good cereals, and good hops, well-boiled, and that you pitch it with top-yeast, and by no means with bottom yeast.

Done. However, I brewed with a soft St. Louis water profile, and created the foundation of the recipe with a slightly higher protein grist bill. 

From an ingredient selection standpoint, I blurred the lines of traditional Kolsch ingredients, too. I modernized it to my liking and what was accessible. The simple grist includes honey malt, and rolled oats topped with some playful citrusy German hops.

This crystal clear, pale beer with a bright round flavor profile looks and drinks like a Kolsch. It’s a strongly executed, simple beer with a lovely drinkable outcome that’s easy to get lost in. It’s a traditional base with a modern twist. It’s a Kolsch-ish, if you will. 

That’s what beer’s all about: pay respects to the rich history and then end up doing whatever you want. Let’s dive in!


Kolsch II (OYL-044) is a friendly, reliable fermenter. Known for its cleanliness and complementary ester expression, it plays well with hops and drops clear relatively quickly, dependent on dry hopping (our recent haze research shows that Kolsch II is what we call a haze-positive” strain. That means this strain can contribute to haze formation in conjunction with mid-to-late fermentation dry hopping). To keep this recipe extra bright, it was essential to forgo a dry hop since dry hop timing plays an important role in haze formation.


  • OG: 1.048 (11.9°P)
  • IBU: low 30s
  • ABV: 4.8%
  • 90 min boil

Malt Bill

  • Base: 92% (the lightest SRM Pils you can find)
  • Honey: 2.5%
  • Rolled Oats: 5%
  • Acid: 0.5% (just a touch for pH)


Hops used:

  • Hallertau Blanc – 10.10% AA
  • Saphir – 3.4% AA

Hop additions for 90 min boil:

  • 90 min (FWH)
    • 25 IBU of Hallertau Blanc
  • 20 min
    • 9 IBU of Hallertau Blanc
  • WP @ 180°F
    • Hallertau Blanc (see note below)
    • Saphir (see note below)

The goal for the whirlpool addition is to add a round aromatic component to balance out some of the other hop additions. Hop moderately. For me, it was 2 oz of each hop for a 13.5 gal whirlpool.


  • SS Brewtech 10 gal electric system
  • 14 gal SS Brewtech unitank

Using SS Brewtech’s 10 gal electric system, my goal was to fill the fermenter with 13 gal of beer for an estimated 10 gal yield. 

Below is the recipe I built to my equipment’s specs. The volumes of malt and hops reflect my equipment’s mash and hop efficiency, which may differ from yours. So, keep that in mind when you’re trying to scale this or just take inspiration from it.

Kolsch Style Ale

Vital Statistics

  • OG 1.048 (11.9°P)
  • IBU low 30s
  • ABV 4.8%
  • Boil 90 min

Raw Materials

  • Total grain volume: 19 lb
  • Pils Malt
    92% (lightest SRM you can find)
  • Honey Malt
  • Rolled Oats
  • Acidulated Malt
    0.5% (just a touch for pH)

  • Hallertau Blanc
    1 oz (90 min FWH), 1.5 oz (20 min), 2 oz (WP 180°F)
  • Saphir
    2 oz (WP 180°F)
  • Yeast
    Kolsch II (OYL-044)

  • Boil Additions
    90 min: 25 IBU, Hallertau Blanc (1oz); 20 min: 9 IBU, Hallertau Blanc (1.5oz).
  • Whirlpool Additions
    180°F: 2 oz, Hallertau Blanc; 2 oz Saphir


  1. Pitch Kolsch II at 68°F (20°C)
  2. When pitching, also add 1 oz of Hallertau Blanc as a clarity agent (our research on hop timing and haze suggests that a small hop addition at knockout promotes clarity).
  3. Maintain 68°F for 5 days then slightly allow temp to rise until around 70°F for diacetyl.
  4. Once diacetyl clears, begin dropping by 5 degrees per day until down to 40°F. Kolsch II has a little sulfur that needs a few days to condition out. A slow crash prevents yeast shock.
  5. If possible with your equipment, drop yeast cone from the fermenter and continue conditioning for about 2 weeks or until your liking. Personally, with this style, the longer the better for me.
  6. Once at your preferred taste, aroma, and presentation, carbonate to 2.5 vol and package accordingly.

Our website uses cookies to improve your browsing experience and help us better understand how users interact with the site. By clicking "Allow", you’re agreeing to the collection of data as described in our Privacy Policy.