Christopher L. Warner
Kölsch was first created in the early 1900s at the Sunner Brewery in Cologne (Koln), Germany. Kölsch was Germany's answer to Britain's pale ale. It shares a common history with two "old" German ales: 1) the copper-colored Altbier brewed in Dusseldorf and, and 2) to a lesser extent a whitish Bavarian ale known as Keuterbier, or Mumme.
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Kölsch is a geographically protected beer. In 1948, the Cologne Brewery Association issued the Kölsch Konvention, which set modern Kölsch brewing specifications. In 2009, the European Union (EU) reinforced the geographical protection by registering Kölsch with a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).  In the 40 or 50 years following its first release, German popularity of Kölsch waivered, with many breweries ultimately disbanding the production. Granted, a number of these breweries within the Cologne region were devastated by military operations during World War II. In 1960, Kölsch began a resurgence in popularity, peaking in 1980, moderated around 2005. Today, on the two dozen or so certified Cologne breweries may legally refer to their beer as "Kölsch."
Here in the United States, local interpretations of Kölsch have been gaining popularity, more so over the last five years with the most activity in only the most recent couple years. Because it is a crisp, refreshing beer, many local craft breweries create Kölsch to celebrate the spring and summer months.
As described by the German Beer Institute, Germany is known for its lagers of all strengths and colors; however, modern Kölsch is Germany's only true, all-barley, pale ale. While the Brits revere their pale ale, or bitter, as the national beer, Kölsch never rose to such status in Germany. Instead, it remains a largely regional favorite, centered in Cologne.
Kölsch should be served in a straight-sided, 6 fluid ounce glass known as a stange (sh-tong-ah). If you don't have a stange, the Kolsch may be served in a flute or even a tumbler. The bottom line is that Kölsch is meant to be enjoyed fresh, cold, and quickly - not chugged - but quickly.
Ancient documents tell us brewing in Cologne dates back at least 1000 years; but modern Kölsch dates back only about one hundred years. For centuries, German brewers were dedicated to creating bottom-fermenting beers. In 1603, Cologne officials in an effort to preserve "old" indigenous ale-style beers issued an ordinance which stated in part [Cologne] brewers were only permitted to brew top-fermenting beers.
The 2015 edition of the Beer Judge Certification Program Beer Style Guideline describes the general impression of Kölsch as a clean, crisp, delicately-balanced beer with a very subtle fruit and hop character with subdued maltiness.
APPEARANCE: clear, very pale gold to light in color.
MOUTHFEEL: generally lighter in mouthfeel with moderate carbonation.
TRADITIONAL INGREDIENTS: German Pils or pale malt up to 20% wheat, clean ale yeast, and traditional German hops (Hallertau, Tettnang, Spalt, or Hersbrucker).
COLOR: 3.5 - 5.0 SRM
 Dossier 4271, 05-25-2009, updated 06-15-2009.
Kölsch in Stange: http://www.eckraus.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/kolsch_beer_260px.jpg, website visited April 28, 2016.
Vintage Photo: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B8-BzvxIcAEMyXT.jpg, website visited April 27, 2016.