The weather is warming up again. The back patio is covered with pine needles and oak leaves that came down during the ice storm. The liriodendron is littering the yard with briefly-pretty purple-white petals, now turning brown on the ground. The long-dormant lawn is about to spring back to life. In short, it’s time again for yard work. This means it’s time for kölsch.
Kölsch is a crisp, light, flavorful style that bridges across both families of beer. How, you might ask? It’s made from traditional lager/pilsner ingredients but fermented with a strain of ale yeast that actually works in the colder temperatures necessary for making lager.
Ale yeast ferments starch sugar between 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher or lower, it shuts down. Lager yeast begins fermentation between 45-54 degrees and will continue to work in secondary fermentation while being stored and aged in temperatures as low as 32 degrees. Also, ale ferments from the top down leaving behind sediment in its path. Lager ferments from the bottom up leaving the sediment under the liquid.
Kölsch yeast actually starts its process at warmer ale temperatures and then continues in the colder aging process applicable to lager.
So why is it perfect for warm weather? Because it doesn’t weigh heavily upon the palate or the stomach. Its crisp, sweet malt allows sharp, grassy hops to refresh taste buds. Due to the lagering process, it’s naturally free of particulate that could add to the texture.
Crisp body, refreshing flavor, easy to drink, doesn’t fill you up… Sounds exactly like what I’d want if working on pulling weeds in the yard. This is why beer of this style garnered a nickname over the years; “lawnmower beer.” Ergo, a beer you could drink a lot of while toiling outside all day in the sun.
Saint Arnold Brewing out of Houston, Texas has a real nice kölsch called, what else, Fancy Lawnmower. Absolutely clear pale gold, it offers a delicate head that leaves intermittent lacing. Its scents are predominantly sweet malt with some leafy, floral hops and just a touch of a scuppernong grape presence. Flavor-wise, Fancy Lawnmower exhibits hay, honey, cereal and citrus before being balanced out with grassy Hallertauer hops and a faint hint of clove. Very crisp, carbonated and dry-finishing, it leaves nothing behind but a flavorful ending that makes the mouth want another sip.
If I make this my reward for doing yard work, I won’t mind very much the blisters that darned rake is about to impart to my hands. Pass me the mulch, and then pass me a Saint Arnold.