31.10.11

Having Kölsch in Köln!




hall of the Radisson Blu Cologne
One of my unrealizable wishes is to wake up in a different city everyday for at least 3 months, I love the feeling of waking up in a nice hotel with the feeling that a new city is waiting to be discovered, local food waiting to be tasted, etc.
Last weekend we woke up in Cologne, Germany in a nice hotel (Radisson Blu) by the city fair.
Beautiful city, lots of history and art. But this time we chose to leave the art and history parts and concentrate in the local culture: beer!


Yes, because Cologne is also famous for its local breweries selling Kölsch, a clear beer, less bitter than the regular German lager beers. Kölsch is also a term which indicates that something is Cologne-ish, and also the dialect spoken in the city. But we concentrated in the beer, which is subtle and delicate, light. It is served in a narrow 0,2 liter glass called Stange, maybe because this way you can always enjoy your beer fresh before it gets too warm in the glass. Kölsch is one of the few beers with a regional appellation (similar to the D.O.C. in wine): only about 24 brewers located in the Cologne area can call their beer Kölsch.
Kölsch

A couple of rules before going to a Brauhaus to get a Kölsh: a) waiters (called Köbe - pl. Köbessen) speaking the dialect carry around a special beer tray, which can hold several glasses, not very friendly, they have a particular sense of humor that might be difficult to catch; for a great explanation about them click here 
b) as you will take a seat the Köbe will instantly serve you a Stange of Kölsch so if you don't want beer act fast and tell him. Also, when you are about to finish your beer put the beer coaster on the top of the glass to indicate you don't want any more beer, otherwise if the Köbe sees your glass empty he will give you a full one immediately (and you'll have to drink it.. oh, what a sacrifice!). c) the Köbessen write a mark in your beer coaster each time they bring you a beer, so when you ask for the check they'll come and write your total in your coaster.
We visited 3 Brauhäuser, each had a different brand of Kölsh:
1) Lömmerzheim - A historic beer place on the other side of the Rhein (Deutze); the atmosphere here is amazing, packed with locals, serves good food in big portions and Päffgen beer (which I found perfect - I'm not a beer drinker so don't take my opinion too seriously, but among the three places we visited, this was the one I liked best). We had several glasses of beer and 2 big portions of sausages with french fries and potato salad, delicious! (Kölsh costed €1,50, our total was €25 for 6 beers and two main courses).  
2) Brauhaus Sion - In the center, it is a big place with many rooms filled with tables, Köbessen and people (both locals and tourists). In the walls they have pictures of post-war Köln. Beer here was a bit lighter than the one in Lömmerzheim. We had a goulash soup (I would have never ordered it here but the waiter got the order wrong and I ate it anyways) and the usual sausage with potato salad; the soup was not memorable. The place is fine for dinner and then a walk around the Cathedral area. (Kölsh costed €1,50, our total was €24 for 5 beers, a soup and a main course).
3) Malzmühle - we tried to come here in the evening but couldn't because it was full, so we came for lunch and found the place quieter with many local families having lunch. Nice place, one of the oldest breweries in Köln, their menu is written in German and Kölsch (of course they have a menu in other languages available) and Köbessen are 'friendlier'. The beer was very good but I found it stronger (for my taste). We had a potato soup which was delicious and a typical Kölsch Kaviar (blood sausage with onion, pickles and rye bread) which was... different... not quite sure if it was good, it kind of reminded me of mortadella... (Kölsh costed €1,55, our total was €17 for 5 beers, a soup and a cold dish).
Sculptures park
Sculpture

We were in Cologne for only 2 days but we didn't spend all our time drinking, we walked around a lot, visited the Sculptures Park near the zoo (go if you like modern sculptures and a place to rest in the park); the shop 4711, where Eau de Cologne was invented (by an Italian); the shopping streets, etc.




If you are in the mood for museums, there are many options, the Roman museum (Cologne was founded by the Romans), Ludwig Museum with lots of modern art paintings (and free lockers for your luggage!), the treasure chamber in the cathedral, etc.

Ludwig Museum (left) just behind the cathedral
You can't leave before walking in or at least taking a picture of the cathedral, you literally can't because it's visible from almost every spot of the city!