Früh Kölsch still surprises after 120 years
By Chris Munden
The booming session beer movement hadn’t yet begun when Alex Bokulich joined Brü Craft & Wurst (1316 Chestnut Street) as General Manager in 2013.
“I was an ale drinker when I started working at Brü,” says Bokulich. “At the time, everyone was really into sours and big, hoppy beers, and I had to develop a list that included classic German lagers.”
That’s when he discovered Früh Kölsch, an ale-lager hybrid brewed in Cologne, Germany. “It was the first German beer I really got into,” he says.
“It has more hop activity and floral aromatics than a lager. It’s very dry on the finish, with a touch of bitterness and a story you can nerd out on.”
Kölsch is a regional specialty produced only in Cologne. Top-fermented at warm temperatures like an ale, it is matured (or “lagered”) at cold temperatures like a traditional lager. In Cologne, it’s served in small glasses because the aromatic head dissipates quickly. Bokulich recommends pouring it into a straight-sided glass, like the stange glasses they use at Brü.
“In Pennsylvania we can get three different, proper German kölsches, all around 100 years-old, with a drinkable 4.8% ABV,” says Bokulich. “They all have their subtleties, but Früh is my favorite. It’s less bitter than others, with a nice, aromatic, floral hint, almost like coconut. It’s very food friendly.”
Bokulich suggests pairing kölsch beers with rich or fried food, making Früh an ideal menu-mate for Brü’s assortment of wursts. He recommends it with currywurst, for a combination that combines spice, umami and refreshment.
Bokulich chooses the beer for three bars, with over 100 combined draught lines and “perhaps 500” different bottles, but he finds himself coming back to Früh Kölsch. “If it’s hot outside I drink it; if I want a beer with a meal I drink it.”
Next time you’re in Center City, stop by Brü for this century-old favorite. “You wouldn’t think a 120-year-old brewery could make something so surprisingly inventive,” says Bokulich. “But it does.”