Kolsches are the perfect spring style: comfortable malt levels and a crisp lager finish make it a nice change of pace from the hop character of your go-to session IPA. True kolshes come from the area around Cologne, Germany, but American craft breweries have discovered their broad appeal; fans of pilsners, blonde ales and cream ales especially will want to give these six a rotation through the backyard cooler.
Carolina Sky Blue Golden Ale
This totally slurpable kolsch from Carolina Brewing tastes like bright, liquid sunshine: There’s light malt sweetness to start the sip, but Hallertau hops finish it with clean bitterness. That means you’ll find yourself putting these back easily—and at 4.8%, these cans are made for sessions.
Great Raft Provisions and Traditions
Just can’t give up your hops? Seek out this Shreveport, Louisiana-brewed kolsch, which is dry-hopped with Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin. They add grassy notes to the aroma, but are extra present on the sip, lending a serious bitterness. Rice added to the grain bill makes for a downy, full mouthfeel.
Saint Arnold Fancy Lawnmower
This summertime refresher is a textbook kolsch in appearance: a soft, white head perched atop a light golden body. The sip is classic, too: you’ll taste biscuity malts first, with just a hint of fruit flavor that wraps up neat and tidy. Easy, breezy, beautiful.
Saint Arnold Santo black kolsch
What’s this? The yin to Fancy Lawnmower’s yang? The Houston brewery adds Munich and black malts to the grain bill, resulting in a pour that’s actually dark brown and colalike in appearance. Those dark malts add plenty of roast and toasted bread, plus perceptible smoke. The kolsch character is still there, though; expect light malt sweetness and a tight finish to the swallow.
Red wheat adds a creaminess to this delicate, balanced featherbed of a beer. Orange blossom aromas on the nose come courtesy of a range of hops additions, while the sip is all pillowy, light grains. Teeny bubbles keep it lively without sacrificing the soft mouthfeel.
Sun King/Three Floyds Slacktivist
A doppel kolsch, really? Turns out, this amped-up collaboration kolsch doesn’t sacrifice any of its balance for increased flavor and a 7.5% ABV. It hits all the style’s bases—slightly sulfuric yeast and light fruit on the aroma, a gorgeous, midweight mouthfeel with floral flavors and smooth malts, finishing with just enough bitterness to stick the landing. Oh, and the beer comes with a message: It was brewed to raise awareness of efforts to raise the barrel cap on Indiana breweries.