This was something of an oddity I found at Growlers To Go-Go
recently - a pear Kölsch. I say odd not because Capital is a stranger to German bier styles because they're not; and not because pear Kölsch is some heretofore unknown exotic brew. Indeed, Capital brewed it a few years ago for a pre-Great Taste of the Midwest party and again last year. The Kölsch is apparently something of a fixation for the brewery's director of operations, Zach Faber, who has been honing his Kölsch for a few years now.
No, what's got me flummoxed is that Capital released a non-pear Kölsch this past spring so either Growlers To Go-Go got things mixed up or Faber is continuing his search for the Platonic ideal of a pear Kölsch.
Personally, I love the idea of adding some pear to the rather humble Kölsch. It's not that you're adding something novel because the style has native pomaceous flavors owing to its yeast. Instead you'd be bolstering the bier's built-in fruitiness to make it stand out. Well, that's my Platonic ideal, anyway.
While I've never strolled the Straßes of Cologne and tasted the freshest Kölsches in their hometown, I am rather picky when it comes to the style. I prefer it to have a distinct, clean cracker taste along with a nice fruitiness that is part pomaceous, part berry-like. The ale yeast provides the fruitiness while ample lagering gives the crisp malty/wheaty taste. (Though I am told that the lagering process for a Kölsch differs from that of, say, a pils.) And for me the gold standard is Reissdorf. They balance these flavors perfectly like a well-mixed album where each instrument and voice has its own space yet blend together in a harmony.
Capital is no stranger to German bier styles or lagering so I was quite looking forward to this brew.
It lit my glass* up with its brilliant light yellow hue which, along with its clarity, made for a very attractive brew. My only complaint is that my pour managed only a small crown of white foam which dissipated quickly. Though there was a fair number of bubbles inside the glass.
My nose got all excited taking in the requisite fruitiness, including pear. Not too strong, mind you. There was also some biscuit and a tad of grassy hops.
The truth about whether this was a pear Kölsch or not would be revealed by my tongue. It discerned a light fruitiness which definitely had some pear as well as apple and that nebulous "berry-like" taste. Having said this, it didn't taste like there was any added pear; just the normal flavor you get from the yeast. There was also a little fizz and the wheat/malt. Unfortunately it was not the crisp, crackery flavor I crave in my Kölsch. Instead it was mushy, dough-like kind of grain taste.
I liked how the fruitiness lingered on the finish as a mild herbal hoppiness made its presence known. Not particularly bitter but just enough to lend a little dryness. After emptying my pseudo-stange it was left with some Schaumhaftvermoegen
- lots of spots and a few patches of webbing.
I am no supertaster but will go out on a limb and say that this is not a pear Kölsch. The fruitiness just didn't seem stronger than I'd expected from a non-fruited brew. Regardless, I really enjoyed the fruit flavors here which included pear. My gripe is that the grains tasted doughy instead of crisp and crackery which muddles the overall flavor instead of giving everything room to stand on its own yet harmonize with each other. This tasted more like Gaffel or Sünner as opposed to Reissdorf which is not a hanging offense. Capital Kölsch is still very tasty. It's light and goes down easily. Plus the modicum of hops on the finish make for a nice contrast.
Junk food pairing: A little salt helps bring out the fruity flavor here, makes it more distinct. But don't overwhelm your palate. Try some plain potato chips or regular Cheez Its.
*My stangen are still packed away in the basement but my wife saved a mole jar and it proved an adequate substitute.