By Anita Smith
In a world where breweries try to outdo each other by creating the most outside-of-the-box, multi-hopped beer, it’s nice to revisit a straight-forward, classic brew. That’s Doug Hager’s philosophy, anyway. Hager co-owns the popular German restaurant and beer hall Brauhaus Schmitz with his wife, Kelly. He is a big fan of traditional German lagers. No surprise there – just walk into this South Street restaurant and bar and you’ll find 30 German beers on tap. As for his favorite beer of yesteryear? That’d be Früh Kölsch.
Hager fell in love with the golden-hued, Hallertau-hopped brew while living in Cologne, Germany.
“I have fond memories of drinking Früh, while sitting in the beer garden in Germany, watching the day go by,” he recalls.
“Over there, it’s served in a small .2 liter glass because it’s so light, they say you should always have a fresh one.”
What draws Hager to Früh Kölsch is its sheer transparency. “It’s light and refreshing, a simple, delicate beer. It’s hard to hide any imperfections in a beer like this,” he says. “So many American breweries have tried to make Früh Kölsch and they’re all slightly off. It’s really a tribute to the perfection of German brewers, that they can make such a delicate beer and not include any adjunct flavors.” Früh Kölsch is so old school, in fact, that since 1904, it’s been brewed with the same original recipe, which has been passed down through five generations. After all, why fix something that isn’t broken?
While Hager acknowledges Früh Kölsch is a perfect summertime beer because of its light and fruity undertones, it’s great to enjoy year-round, as they do in Cologne. It pairs very well with light fare, such as salads and fish. And Hager says it makes a great breakfast beer, if that’s your thing.
If you’re unfamiliar with, or new to, the German beer scene, you’re in luck. According to Hager, Früh Kölsch is the perfect “gateway beer”. “This is a good starter for those looking to get into German beers. Some people who come to Brauhaus Schmitz are overwhelmed by all the different beers we have on draught, so I steer them toward a light one, like Früh Kölsch, to start.”