The newest beer from Capital reinforces that brewery’s reputation for making great German beer styles. “[Even] with the portfolio of beer we’ve made in the past 31 years, we’re still finding German styles we’ve never brewed,” says brewmaster Ashley Kinart. The Middleton brewery just has released a traditional kölsch.
What is it? Kölsch by Capital Brewery of Middleton.
Style: The kölsch is made with ale yeast and is fermented warm, yet commonly aged at colder temperatures, making it a hybrid between the lager and the ale. A kölsch should be golden- to straw-colored, effervescent with subtle fruity sweetness, dryness, and a light- to medium-body. It’s crisp in hop character, but not bitter. The kölsch name is associated with a beer from Köln. In Germany it is brewed to strict standards, with 10 to 20 percent wheat. It finishes in strength between 4.8 to 5.3 percent ABV.
Background: Capital’s kölsch shows off the brewery’s German roots. This kölsch was designed by the brewery’s Zach Faber, director of operations since 2012. Faber had done just about every job in the brewery except brewing on the main brew house system.
Faber has been working on this beer for nearly five years, using Capital’s pilot brewing system to make small trial batches, some of which have been offered at special tappings and brewery events in recent months. Capital followers may remember Faber’s take on the style about a year ago called Zach’s pear kölsch, which was much bigger, sweeter and bolder, higher in alcohol and infused with pear puree.
This new version has dialed back on Faber’s 2016 recipe, which ends up lower in alcohol at 4.8 percent ABV. Faber also decided not to infuse the beer with pear puree; rather, he chose a German yeast strain that provides light fruity notes of pear and apple, as one expects in the traditional kölsch profile. The recipe also has other authentic touches in its German pilsner malts, German Hallertau and Czech Saaz hops.
Capital Kölsch is likely to be found in local taphouses and the brewery’s beer garden throughout the summer. At the brewery it’s sold in pints for $5 and growlers for $14 (refill). It’s also expected to be among the beers offered at the Cask Ale Festival on April 27 during Madison Craft Beer Week.
Aroma: Very light floral-fruity hints of pear and apple, with a faint grainy-wheatiness.
Appearance: Clear, deep yellow-golden color with a thick-dense soft white head.
Texture: Medium bodied. Just a little more body and softness than I was expecting for a kölsch; however, it remains crisp.
Taste: A light up-front fruitiness with a hint of pear. Then, a subtle graininess in the background from the wheat.
Finish/Aftertaste: Just a whiff of fruitiness and light herbal hoppiness complemented with dryness. Overall, a very clean beer.
Glassware: This is a kölsch that deserves to be served in the traditional German stick or stange (a tall, clear cylinder of about 6-7 ounces, with no taper).
Pairs well with: Salads, light sandwiches and summer lunch fare. The fruity tones and mild maltiness go nicely with vinaigrette dressings and/or sandwiches and wraps. In northern Germany the kölsch is a common companion to grilled and lightly seasoned pork dishes.
The Verdict: I’m excited that Capital is focusing on what it’s always done well – making fine German beers. I really enjoy the brewery’s Special Pilsner, Blonde Doppelbock and Oktoberfest. Kölsch ranks right up there. It’s clean with a hint of fruity pear that reinforces the beer’s crispness. There’s also a subtle earthy, bready and wheaty background, which that gives it balance as well as body. This brings back my own memories of a recent trip to Köln, where I and enjoyed more than a few beers in the local beer gardens. Faber really does Capital proud with his rendition of a kölsch, and I hope Capital makes it a standard offering.