DRAFT PICKS: A summertime favorite — Kolsch!

In our continuing discussion of good summer-style beers, let’s take a few minutes to review Kolsch.

Kolsch beers are really nice summertime beers. They are just what a beer lover should be looking for on a hot, humid summer’s day - crisp, clear, refreshing.

For those searching for something dark, creamy and a bit hefty, Kolsch is not necessarily the path to be taking.

Kolsch beers are rich, straw colored yellow with a good amount of hops, but not anything like a beefy IPA.

Kolsch beers evolved from the Wiess - or white beer - family. They didn’t really become too popular until after the Second World War, although local variations existed - especially around the city of Koln in Germany.

The need for a good, original, sharp and clear lighter beer determined a surge in the Kolsch market.

Today, quite a few breweries in Europe produce their version of Kolsch, and here in the states more and more brewers are looking to the style and successfully trying their hand at production of the same - including our local brewing star at Big Rapids’ Cranker’s Brewery Adam Mills.

As a result, there are quite a few types and styles of Kolsch on the shelves of well-developed beer stores.

Some may find Kolsch a bit sweet; (especially if the brewer designed it to be so) but this is definitely a beer that can hold its own with the widest range of beer lovers on any given hot summer day.

Our friends at Beer Advocate have created a listing of the most popular Kolsch beers being marketed in the U.S.

They include:

  • Reissdorf Kölsch - Brauerei Heinrich Reissdorf
  • Harpoon Summer Beer - Harpoon Brewery & Beer Hall
  • Samuel Adams East-West Kölsch - Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams)
  • Yellowtail Pale Ale - Ballast Point Brewing Company
  • Saint Arnold Fancy Lawnmower - Saint Arnold Brewing Company
  • Gaffel Kölsch - Privatbrauerei Gaffel Becker & Co.
  • Alaskan Summer Ale - Alaskan Brewing Co.
  • Leinenkugel’s Canoe Paddler - Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company
  • New Holland Full Circle - New Holland Brewing Company
  • Samuel Adams Escape Route - Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams)

Some of these, and many other Kolsch beers, are available in our area.

Try some. They are great summer beers.


Benevolent Friend is a hefty barleywine that was bottled specifically to honor Grand Rapids beer marketer Rishi Makkar. (His face graces the label?)

The thing is ...this brew can only be purchased at Rishi’s. It is occasionally served draft at Right Brain’s taproom in Traverse City. Either way, it is worth the drive north or south.

Benevolent Friend pours a mildly cloudy amber color with a touch of head and little substantial lacing.

The scenting is dominated by strong tones of roasted malts with a subtle yet expressive fruitiness.

At 9.5 percent ABV, this is a hefty brew that declares itself with first sip. Friend is sweetly fruity with dark fruits leading the way. There is a healthy blast of raison-like flavor early on which is toned down by the prominent booziness.

Keep in mind, folks. This is a barleywine.

Quite frankly, Benevolent Friend may not be for the faint of heart.

As with Goat Boy, this may not be the perfect drink for a summer afternoon.

But it was a great drink in an evening session on the deck with a good breeze picking up from the east.

Nice. Unique. Quite a bit of muscle.


How can you not enjoy a beer named Goat Boy?

Southern Tier is a very innovative company brewing some fine beers. Goat Boy is a good example of their dedication to the craft.

Pouring a somewhat hazy dark amber (almost copper) color, there is a good amount of foamy head that leaves a rich lacing behind.

At first whiff, the mixture of aromas is confusing and complex. 

There are certainly rich hints of caramel with a defined spiciness up front. There also is a mild shot of banana scent at the fore.

It’s odd, but all these expressive aromas are headliners. One person may pick up on the spiciness sooner, while others notice the banana scents - but it is all right there.

There are herbal tones in the background, and one can certainly pick out a touch of booziness.

At first wash there is a lot of the caramel, malt, spiciness that was picked out in the scenting. The sweetness is demonstrative, but is almost immediately countered by a mild alcohol burn.

Despite the “muscle,” this is a smooth brew and goes down well. It’s a little “rude” at first sip, but becomes more civilized quickly.

I really enjoyed this beer, but might suggest this isn’t the best brew to have on a really hot, humid summer day.

Even chilled it goes down kinda warm.

Save it for sipping around an evening’s campfire.