Read The Label To Make Sure You're Drinking Authentic Kölsch Beer

Craft beer has been around in the U.S. for nearly 200 years, if not longer, per Craft Beer. However, it didn't really take off until the 1960s, with homebrewing following in the '70s, and microbreweries in the '90s. Today, the movement seems more popular than ever, with sales of U.S. craft beer increasing as recently as 2021, according to the Brewers Association. For many discerning drinkers, finding and tasting beer brewed by small, independent breweries is a hobby worth taking seriously.

One of the up-and-coming beers in the American craft brewery scene is the Kölsch beer (via MasterClass). The beer has a light body and a unique taste described as crisp and smooth, with a mix of soft, malty sweetness and delicate, hoppy bitterness. The subtle fruit flavor (apple or pear) of Kölsch sets it apart from pilsners. Resembling ale in some ways and lager in others, Kölsch is considered a hybrid. It's recommended that one drinks this refreshingly thirst-quenching beer with bratwurst, light apricot cake, or nutty cheeses. Its ABV ranges from only 4.8% to 5.3%, putting it slightly on the lower end of alcoholic content for beers, so imbibers can comfortably drink in moderation.

One can recognize Kölsch by its pale, amber color and sharp clarity. While best served in a flute, you can often find it bottled at the store. Just be sure to read the label when buying off the shelf or ordering at a bar if you're concerned about authenticity.

Real Kölsch beer comes from Köln

By definition, true Kölsch beer originates in the German city of Köln (also known as Cologne), per Craft Beer. The European Union actually enforces this, according to MasterClass. So, if you're enjoying a Kölsch beer in the E.U., you can rest assured it's a genuine product from Köln. However, this is not the case for those of us in the U.S. Some American brewers will go out of their way to make this clear, employing the term "Kölsch-style ale." Others, however, skip these technicalities and call their product straight up "Kölsch" beer, even when that's not actually true. That's why it's so important — for people who desire the real deal — to read the fine print and check where the beer was brewed.

We're certainly not saying you can't try Kölsch-style ale. If you are interested in trying the American take on Kölsch, American companies such as Alaskan Brewing, Left Hand Brewing, and Ornery Beer offer up Summer Ale, Travelin' Light Kölsch, and Light of Cologne, respectively. Meanwhile, the most popular breweries in Köln that mix, ferment, and condition the city's signature beer include Früh, Gaffel, and Reissdorf. So, if you do decide to seek out some legit Kölsch beer, now you know what to look for!