It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the country that gave us the gift of Octoberfest like a beer or two! Germany is famed for its beer, and different parts of the country are known for perfecting different styles.
Cologne is known for being the home of Kölsch, a clear, top-fermented beer that is similar in style to a light, crisp lager. Kölsch is served all over Cologne in bars, restaurants and beer halls. The large breweries are often attached to their beer halls, so you get the freshest Kölsch straight from the barrel!
We spent two days exploring Cologne, trying out the best bars and brewpubs across the city, and have picked out our favourite Kölsch spots for you to try too!
Kölsch is traditionally served in a tall 200-millilitre glass called a Stange. Servers in Cologne’s bars and brewpubs will carry eleven or twelve glasses in circular trays called a Kranz, and instead of waiting for you to order a refill, they will immediately swap an empty glass with a full one with no questions asked, marking a tick on a coaster on your table. If you don’t want any more refills, you have to place the coaster on top of your empty glass. The marked coaster essentially forms the table’s bill, and you pay for the number of beers marked down.
Cologne stands out from the rest of Germany, as it’s the only city in the country to legally protect its beer and restrict its brewing by law. The ‘Kölsch Convention’ was signed in 1986 by the directors of 24 Cologne based breweries, and legally states that Kölsch can only be brewed within Cologne, in its traditional style.
Our favourite place to enjoy a Kolsch is in the original “Brauhaus”, the traditional beer hall where the beer is brewed, but Kölsch is served in bars and restaurants all over the city. Brauhaus food is rich and hearty, so eat up, you're going to need it for this tour!
Früh Am Dom
The “Brauhaus Früh am Dom” is one of the most famous and popular “Brauhausen” in Cologne and in our opinion definitely worth a visit!
Located right in the centre of Cologne near the famous cathedral, Peter Josef Früh established the “Brauhaus Früh am Dom” in 1904, and it has been producing delicious Kölsch for over 100 years! Früh also stays true to its family roots, with the current owners being direct descendants of Peter.
Cologne suffered heavily during World War II, with 90% of the inner-city lying-in ruins by the end of the conflict. This included the main building of Früh's brewhouse, which burned down in February 1944. Früh were more fortunate than other brewers however, as the brewery wasn't entirely destroyed.
After the difficult war years, recovery was in the air and people were once again craving a delicious Kölsch. The Brewhouse was restored and Kölsch in a bottle was introduced so people could enjoy Früh at home, the modern era had begun.
Früh continued to grow in the catering services and in 1985 the ultra-modern Kölsch brewery was built.
Nowadays, Früh has one of the largest brewpubs in Cologne, they even have a 78 room hotel and a gift shop where you can pour your own glass of Kölsch! It's top of our list and we think it should be top of yours Früh! 😉
Peter’s is located right in the centre of town, just a stone’s throw from the Old Market Square. It is one of the most well-known brewpubs in the city and generally gets a lot of attention from tourists, so booking up is definitely recommended. We ended up standing near the bar.
That being said, it has a great atmosphere and their food is some of the best in the city! Plus, Peter’s Kölsch is worth standing around for!
Gaffel Kölsch is one of the largest breweries in Cologne and their beer can be found in bars all over the city.
One of our favourite places to drink Gaffel was Haxenhaus, a rustic bar right in the heart of the Old Town that’s been serving pork knuckle and Bratwust to hungry locals and tourists for 30 years.
Try their yard of Kölsch (10 glasses) if you’re feeling like a party, or the half yard (5 glasses) if you want to explore a few more Kölsch spots before calling it a day.
It just so happens that while we were in Cologne it was also Backpacks & Beverages Instagram page's first birthday, so we decided celebrate!
Beer has been brewed on the site of Bruhaus Sion in one form or another since 1318, and there's no sign of stopping any time soon!
The historical brewhouse was completely destroyed in May 1942 during the “Night of 1000 Bombs”. Luckily, for beer lovers, it was rebuilt and still serves fresh Kölsch today.
When founder Hans Sion died in January 1998 at the age of 86, Cologne’s Kölsch industry lost one of it's most important figureheads. As an advocate for “Kölsch culture”, and one of the signatures of the Kölsch Convention, he is known in Cologne as the “Father of Kölsch”.
Grab a seat close to the bar if you can so that you can watch as fresh barrels are brought up straight from the basement, tapped on the bar, and brought straight to your table!
Scenic Kölsch Spots
There's no better place to enjoy a fresh Kölsch than from the brauhaus, that's a given! BUT, if the sun is blazing down outside, you might not want to be stuck in a hot, wood panelled beer hall, and might fancy soaking up some vitamin D instead.
Some of our best memories from Cologne were grabbing a bottle or can of Kölsch from the shop and sitting outside with a scenic view as the backdrop for our afternoon cold one.
Our favourite spots were outside Cologne Cathedral and down by the river over the Hohenzollern Bridge for the best views looking back towards the city!
Kolsch culture was our favourite thing about visiting Cologne. The atmosphere in the bars and brauhauses is unlike anything else, and the fact you don't even need to ask for a refill is enough to keep any beer lover happy!
If you do plan a trip to this less frequented German city, make sure you save all these spots in your google maps, plan your route, and get ready for a great day of bar hopping!