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Summit Brewing Company and German Beers: A Love Story

This spring, we announced we’d be having a new summer seasonal: Summit Cabin Crusher Kölsch-Style Ale with Lime. In case you didn’t know a kölsch is a German style of beer. And, also in case you didn’t know, we love our German beers here at Summit.

Not only do we have a brewhouse that was imported straight from Germany, we have two year-round pilsners and an Oktoberfest as our fall seasonal. Also, at one point we had a Maibock and Hefeweizen on tap, too.

We really love our German brews.

So, it made sense to add one more to the pack. Enter Summit Cabin Crusher Kölsch-Style Ale with Lime. But, what is a kölsch?

Well, sit back, crack open a Cabin Crusher and we’ll tell ya!

Summit Cabin Crusher Kolsh-Style Ale with Lime on Pallet
(Credit: Summit Brewing Company)

A Brief Background

The hybrid style of beer was born in Köln, or Cologne, Germany, who’s brewing traditions date as far back as the 5th century. Kölschbiers, as we know them now, weren’t seen until the 1600’s.

When brewing in Central Germany became more popular during the Middle Ages, hops were not used. Brewers used a mixture of herbs, known as gruit, to flavor the beer.

According to All About Beer, hops began to come on the scene in Northern Germany just after the start of the 15th century. Brewers in Köln took a while to warm to this new ingredient, but eventually adopted it over gruit by the 16th century. They used the hops, malt and top-fermentation to brew their beers.

Not too long after, in Southern Germany, lager beers were growing in popularity. At the time they were seen to be substandard ales by brewers in the rest of Germany. As a way to keep the taste for lagers at bay, Köln outlawed the bottom-fermentation technique used to create lagers.

With this mandate in place, and the invention of refrigeration and the indirect heat kiln in the 1800’s, the distinct regional style of brewing really began to take shape. Brewers in Köln were able to use pale malts and top-ferment their beers while then cold-finishing them like lagers.

Eventually this technique, top-fermented and cold finished, is what would become known as the Kölschbiers. While style of beer has been around for over a hundred years, they were not referred to as such until the early 20th century. This became the official name when it received its Protected Geographical Indication from the EU in 1997. Truly a product of their environment, Kölschbiers were a blend of cultures around it.

Just Like Champagne

The use of brewing techniques that blend the worlds of ales and lagers leads to a style that is crisp and clean like a lager, but light and fruity, or spicy, like an ale.

It became a style brewers all over Germany, and the world, tried to emulate, and a stable Kölners tried to protect.

So much so that in the 1960s and ’70s lawsuits were filed over what could be considered a Kölsch. Then, in 1985, a law was passed that stated only brewers in or around Köln could brew kölsch beer.

Thus, while the style can be re-created by a brewer anywhere in the world, it’s not truly a kölsch unless you’re in Cologne. In fact, it is one of the world’s most strictly defined beer styles.

Summit and Kölsch-Style Beer

This is why, if you’ve ever been curious, our own Summit Cabin Crusher Kölsch-Style Ale with Lime has that designation.

While we brewed it in the style of a kölsch we, clearly, aren’t in Germany.

But, much like the kölschbiers of yore, our Cabin Crusher has a fruity, light body with a creamy mouthfeel and crisp, refreshing finish.

And we feel it’s a damn fine homage to Deutschland! Prost!

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