Kölsch ist Besser
I have always been a big lover of beer. While my body is challenged by the very notion of it, quick to send a reminder via my waistline that I might want to rethink the relationship, I warmly embrace this love affair, one that is passionately ignited at the opening of the German beer garden season.
Recognized on a global level as one of the most esteemed of brewers, Germany acknowledges 2016 as a historic point in their stellar beer-making history – the 500 year anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot. The so-called purity law, first established in 1516 in the region of Bavaria, decrees that only three ingredients - water, malt, hops (yeast was added at a later date) are allowed in the creation of German beer. The fact that beer was and I would venture to conclude still is, a key component of the country’s nutritional diet, ensured the health and safety of all who consumed it.
When in Germany do as the Germans do and so it was that I became indoctrinated into the world of Kölsch – the local beer of Köln. With a ample variety of established Kölsch brands, each Köln "Kneipe" (bar) adopts one and only one into their arsenal of drinks. For those beer lovers lucky enough to find themselves saddled up to a bar within the city limits, its important to understand the art of drinking this light and savory fair.
- Kölsch comes served in a traditional 0.2 liter cylinder-like glass. Each comes marked so that one can ensure that they have been served the legally mandated amount and complain appropriately if suspecting otherwise.
- In a busy Kneipe, one can find Kölsch being served out of a contraption my American friend Raj dubbed a "Lazy Susan" – please note photo attached to this blog.
- Every Kölsch consumed will be registered on your very own "Deckel." More on that later.
- When it's time to call it a day, be sure to place a "Deckel" on top of your finished glass because the beauty of this drink is that one need not order a refill, as the wait staff just keeps them coming, and coming, and coming.
- Kölsch is dangerous, as one can drink an alarming amount without notice, a fact only understood when one attempts to stand and recognizes they likely need assistance.
The "Deckel," known to us Americans as simply a coaster is a highly regarded and necessary addition to any a Köln "Kneipe." My first time week living in Köln, I came to understand just how important this small piece of cardboard truly is, as in lieu of a cash register, the "Deckel" serves as one’s personal accounting of all food and drinks consumed.
Out with V one night and after ordering our first beers, I watched as our waitress proceeded to deliver them, setting each down on a "Deckel" and then pulling out another registering two slash marks on it with a pencil, dropping it on the table and walking away.
"What does this mean?" I asked.
"It's our beers. She is making a note that they are our first two and she will continue to make a mark for every beer we drink thereafter," he said.
"You have got to be kidding me. That is how she tracks how many beers we drink? Don't you have cash registers?"
"Of course we do but this is tradition here in our Kneipen."
"It's written in pencil for Godsake. What is to keep me from pulling out an eraser and just casually removing these slashes?"
"We don't do that and I would expect that you wouldn't either," he said.
He really tested me with that comment but I rose to the occasion and kept my handbag appropriately closed.
The whole thing truly befuddled me as I watched slash after slash being registered on the "Deckel." As we signaled our waitress that we were ready to leave, I looked down at our "Deckel" and found the amount of slash marks made for an alarming understanding of how many of these beers one can so effortlessly drink. Our waitress in turn, instead of pulling out a pocket calculator, proceeded to add up all the food and every beer we drank in her head. So it was at this time that I came to understand two things - tradition allows for no adding machinery and me, limited to only ten fingers with which to count, would find zero success as a waitress in a Köln Kneipe.